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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Study Guide

Jeanette Winterson

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Judges | Summary



This chapter opens with the ultimatum Jeanette's mother gives her to move out of the house. The reason is finally clear to Jeanette: "romantic love for another woman was a sin." She has been discovered again by her church, and her mother views Jeanette's indiscretion as "a willful act" to sell her soul to the devil.

Before details are given about the discovery of Jeanette's latest involvement, the narrative is interrupted by the first of several references to the legend of Sir Perceval's search for the Holy Grail. This excerpt describes King Arthur's sadness at the departure of his youngest knight on such a dangerous quest and the king's remorse at how much things have changed around the once glorious Round Table.

Then the narrative returns to the Morecambe guest house, where Katy and Jeanette plan to spend a week on holiday. The first night, excited to be away together, they are careless and forget to lock the bedroom door. The owner of the house, an old friend of Jeanette's mother, sees them entangled in each other's arms in bed. Jeanette comes up with an explanation. She says she was with Melanie, and Katy helped her set up the meeting at the guest house because Jeanette had begged her for help. The story is believed, leaving Katy safe from blame. However, Jeanette must go home. Her mother is in a rage, breaking things, and orders Jeanette to go to bed. The pastor arrives but says this matter must be brought to the council. He advises Jeanette's mother to allow her daughter to leave the house only to go to church.

Jeanette does go to church the next day and is delighted to see Elsie Norris for the first time in months. Elsie invites her to her home. She informs Jeanette that Miss Jewsbury is living in Leeds with another woman and apologizes for having been in the hospital during the time when Jeanette needed her most. After more friendly conversation, Jeanette returns home. A few days later the verdict from the church council is revealed. They have decided the root of Jeanette's problem can be traced to the role she has been given in the church as a preacher—a role that rightfully belongs only to men and that has led her to try to act like a man in a sexual relationship with a woman. Elsie, in the back of the church as this is all explained, tries to defend Jeanette, but she is restrained and taken home. The pastor tells Jeanette to look forward to a more powerful exorcism and then a vacation with her mother at the Morecambe guest house, if she will agree. "I'll tell you in the morning," Jeanette replies.

Here the narrative is again interrupted, with a second excerpt from the Sir Perceval tale. Traveling through the woods for days, the knight is hungry and beginning to feel despair. However, his dreams of the Holy Grail and memories of his rich and fulfilling life as a Knight of the Round Table keep him going.

When the pastor comes to Jeanette's house the next morning, she announces she is leaving the church as well as her home. Jeanette is firm in this decision and cannot be swayed. Before long she finds a place to live and a job. The only thing that makes her sad about leaving the house she has lived in for most of her life is that she cannot take the dog with her.


As Jeanette once again goes through the ordeal with her church, she clutches to the rough brown pebble her orange demon has given her. She finds strength in remaining steadfast in her decision to leave the church and her home behind, to live her life the way she needs to instead of the way her mother wants her to. It's significant that Elsie Norris returns to her life at this critical point, as she is another source of strength for Jeanette.

Notably Jeanette is somewhat detached from all the madness going on around her. She sarcastically offers her mother and the pastor an orange when they decide she is possessed of demons and willfully following the devil, but they don't get the subtlety of her offer and suggest she is the raving mad person in the room. At the end of the chapter Jeanette says she doesn't really care what happens to her. She knows the day she moves out is "not judgement day, but another morning." The only thing she is sure of is that she does not want to work at a fruit stand selling oranges.

Like Sir Perceval, Jeanette is now on a significant quest, the quest to find her own life. Also like Sir Perceval, she knows she will sometimes feel lost and will miss the privileged status she enjoyed as one of her church's young stars. Yet what she seeks is more than worth the pain and fear she will experience. Besides, the church she has been a part of her entire life makes no sense to her anymore. She cannot believe the sexism behind the church's rationale for her "deviant" behavior.

Jeanette's mother's fury and cruel words in this chapter may disturb some readers. But with the italicized opening section it's clear she cannot change. "Either you or your head must be off," says the queen. As always, a person who will not succumb to her will cannot exist in her world—especially if it is the daughter she has so painstakingly groomed to follow the path she has envisioned for her life. When Jeanette says no to being a missionary, continues to believe her lesbian relationships are pure, and decides to leave the church, her mother has no further use for her. In turn, Jeanette is done with her mother, expressing that sentiment in her harshest words yet: "If there's such a thing as spiritual adultery, my mother was a whore."

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