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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Study Guide

Jeanette Winterson

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Quotes


I cannot recall a time when I did not know that I was special.

Jeanette, Genesis

Jeanette's pithy statement expresses one of the main ideas her mother forces on her from the beginning: Jeanette is one of the chosen elect of God. But there is additional sentiment behind the statement. By "special," Jeanette also means she is different, in more than one way, a difference that often makes her life difficult.


You'll never marry ... not you, and you'll never be still.

Gypsy woman, Genesis

Just a child when the gypsy woman makes this prognostication, Jeanette never forgets it. She believes it and over time comes to understand it as well for her sexual self and her restless existence.


You can change the world.

Jeanette's mother, Genesis

Jeanette's mother plans her daughter's future when she first gets her as a baby. That future is to be a missionary, the religious endeavor Jeanette's mother finds most desirable and most effective in the world, and a way to change it for the better, according to her rigid views.


Now I was finding that even the church was sometimes confused.

Jeanette, Exodus

This is the first moment Jeanette questions the religious beliefs and teachings she has always seen as infallible. It comes to her when she is in the hospital and learns her deafness is a medical condition, not the spiritual rapture her mother has dismissed it as.


I loved her because she always knew exactly why things happened.

Jeanette, Exodus

Jeanette is talking about her love for her mother. Her mother's certainty about things makes Jeanette feel safe as a child, and the feeling is especially strong when Jeanette feels misunderstood and abused as a misfit at school.


You'll get used to it.

Elsie Norris, Exodus

Elsie Norris says this to Jeanette when Jeanette complains about never winning prizes at school because her ideas are so different. Elsie understands her frustration because others view Elsie's ideas as odd, too. The statement will take on added meaning when Elsie is comforting Jeanette after the church discovers her homosexuality and rejects it, because Elsie herself is also a lesbian and understands the situation.


There's what we want ... and there's what we get, remember that.

Uncle Bill's wife, Numbers

This is the response of Jeanette's aunt when Jeanette says she doesn't think she'll ever want a boy. She is warning Jeanette she will probably have to conform to the usual ways of the world—an idea Jeanette never accepts.


Everyone who tells a story tells it differently.

Jeanette, Deuteronomy

Winterson does not believe in the complete accuracy or truth of any story, or history for that matter. This kind of subjectivity, or relativity, is a theme that pervades the book and her approach to writing it.


That walls should fall is the consequence of blowing your own trumpet.

Jeanette, Joshua

Angry with her mother, Jeanette refers to her need to "blow her own trumpet" when she makes this comment. A biblical reference to the Book of Joshua, the statement is part of a longer section of commentary on the necessity of breaking away from imposed barriers and restraints to allow one to grow as a person.


It all seemed to hinge around the fact that I loved the wrong sort of people.

Jeanette, Judges

Although Jeanette remains innocent about why the feelings she has for Melanie and Katy are seen as sinful, she is finally beginning to realize that homosexual relationships are strictly forbidden by her church—and her relationships with Melanie and Katy are in fact homosexual.


To change something you do not understand is the true nature of evil.

Jeanette, Ruth

At this point Jeanette resents others' trying to force her to act and live in ways that do not feel right to her. She is especially angry because those judging her do not seem to want to understand her.


She had to pretend she was just like them.

Jeanette, Ruth

In assuming the role of narrator in the story of Winnet, Jeanette describes what Winnet must do to fit into the village where she cannot speak the language of the people. The description helps readers understand how difficult it is for Jeanette at first to try to fit into the world outside her church.


People ... go back, but ... don't survive, because two realities are claiming them at the same time.

Jeanette, Ruth

As Jeanette thinks deeply about how difficult it is for her to return home after several years away, she wisely assesses that her old reality does not match her new life at all, and so she can never really go back to stay.


Every time you make an important choice, the part you left behind continues the other life.

Jeanette, Ruth

Jeanette has this realization after she has been home for a couple of days after years away and is surprised at how familiar everything feels. It is a clear sign she was right to get out of the place that would have continued to suck her essence as an individual out of her.


If God is your emotional role model, very few human relationships will match up to it.

Jeanette, Ruth

Jeanette prefaces this comment with the statement that she is not even sure God exists. That is important, because the God she grew up loving and knowing was the best friend she ever had.

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