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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Study Guide

Jeanette Winterson

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Symbols


Pink Raincoat

When Jeanette is a teenager, she needs a new raincoat (referred to as a mackintosh). Her mother, ever the frugal shopper, is reluctant to spend money to replace the torn and shabby coat Jeanette is forced to wear. However, when she locates a cheap one in a bin of surplus merchandise, she buys it. It does not matter to her mother that it is way too big for Jeanette or that Jeanette despises its bright pink color. She simply thrusts "a shapeless piece of plastic" at Jeanette, forcing her into the coat and its matching hat with no consideration of how ill suited it is.

The raincoat symbolizes the person Jeanette's mother tries to force her to become. Having raised her to be a missionary, she will accept no other path for her daughter's life. She forces Jeanette to live a life centered in the church, and she ultimately tries to force Jeanette to be heterosexual even though Jeanette is not. The color of the coat—bright pink, typically identified as the favorite color for "girly girls"—is symbolic as well. That day, after the coat is purchased and Jeanette must traipse around town in it, she sees bright pink in everything and finds it repugnant. She does not identify with bright pink, just as she does not identify with feelings toward boys that many other girls her age feel.

The day of the coat incident is the very day Jeanette first sees Melanie and instantly has feelings for her. Although forced into the coat, in the end she will not be forced into the life her mother has planned for her.


Walls—often walls made of stone—appear throughout the novel, both in the narrative and interwoven tales. As the story unfolds, and particularly in "Joshua," it becomes clear the walls are symbols of the restraints placed on Jeanette throughout her childhood. Although Winterson explores walls as both protective and restrictive, the older Jeanette gets, the more the walls become restrictive. She must break through the walls to grow and succeed at living an authentic life.

As Jeanette states, following the exorcism performed on her by the church when they discover her lesbian affair with Melanie, "It is in the nature of walls that they should fall." People cannot be kept inside human-made fortresses forever; they must get outside the constructs put up around them in order to come into themselves. They also must break through inner walls of their own creation to have the strength they need to move forward.

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