Oranges Are Not The |Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson


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Oranges Are Not The |Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson
  Oranges Are Not The |Only Fruit Jeanette WintersonJeanette Winterson can be considered an important representative of the experimentalwriting, as her main purpose of her novel is to provide a new perspective on a particular contextthrough the processes of innovation.(Childs, 2005:230) Winterson’s novels seem to defy t he necessity of a plot and therefore of a story as theycontain very little information which might support a plot. In their rejection of the traditionalstory-line an in favor of hybrid narratives, where non- narrative elements proliferate, Winterson’s novels are closer to poetry than to prose. The fiction of the author is defined by “the use of  highly poetic language and of various non-narrative discourses that challenge the traditional conception of the narrative”.(Botescu Sireteanu 2007:78) . Despite being fictional, the presentation of the book suggests a sense of closeness to the experiences of the writer. The maincharacter for example is called Jeanette, and certain sections and chapters, such as “Deuteronomy” sound like statements of belief that come direct from Winterson. Oranges are not the only fruit  is an experimental novel. The author provides an “autobiographical account of the struggle for self  -identification and self- recovery”(Botescu Sireteanu 2007: 78). In many ways, Oranges seems to be an autobiography and it could also bethe viewed as a classic novel about growing up, or buildungsroman . Oranges    presents “the confusion and self consciousness of the adolescent girl who must deal internally and externally with a maturing body and the self consciousness of her owndifference, causing her to engage in the struggle to retain her identity in spite of the hostile environment”(Preda :228).In her search for her identity, Jeanette uses stories to explain her own choices.These stories are shaped by her life experience. ”Winterson’s novel does not distort the facts that constitute her life story; it draws on the reality of actual events and points out theemotional impact they had on the young girl who experienced them. ”(Preda , 2010:222) Theauthor emphasizes the fact that the structure of the novel is experimental, by relating the main linear and chronological narrative of Jeanette’s coming of age with other stories : fairy tales,  dream sequences, Arthurian legend, and references to other texts such as the Bible and  Jane    Eyre  (1847). Winterson’s use of fairy tales within Oranges. As traditional fairy tales have often beensubject of feminist criticism, it seems strange that especially Winterson, as a lesbian writer,interweaves traditional fairy tales into her plot. These domestic fictions have encouraged womenthroughout centuries to blindly await Prince Charming in order to fulfil their goal in life :marriage.These tales describe women as controlled by men, first by their mothers, then by their husbands,as depended heroines who need to be rescued from the dangers they might face in theworld. However, the fairy-tale episodes in Oranges are not as traditional as they seem to be. Winterson’s fairy tales have a different pur   pose throughout the novel. They stress the most crucial moments in the protagonist’s development, and contribute to illustrate the importance of  story- telling . “ Jeanette imagines to be living out biblical myths, creates personal plots, which seen at a higher level of abstraction, suggest sequences of life events function to shape the character’s inner and outer development”. (Preda 2010:228). Thus the intertextual cross references allude to the religious and social context of the community Winterson grew up in.Jane Eyre , in particular is a significant intertext on several levels. Like Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Oranges is a buildungs roman, and the main character in each is an orphan who is placedwithin a difficult (though at times loving in the case of  Oranges ) environment.In addition,  Jane    Eyre   is Jeanette’s mother’s favourite novel. However, in retelling the story to Jeanette, the mother adapts the ending. In her mother’s version, Jane Eyre marries the religious and safe St.John Rivers, avoiding the return to the more passionate and sexually charged, Rochester. The mother’s interpretation of the novel is related to her own life, in that she choses to marry her safeand silent husband. Rochester thus, symbolizes unreppresed desire, and according to the novel,lesbian desire.The title of the novel Oranges are not the only fruit, demands an explanation that can only be provided through analyzing the multiple occurrence of oranges in the story.” The oranges begin as a food championed by the mother and fed to the young Jeanette at all kinds of inappropriate moments , often accompanied by the chant, “oranges are the only fruit””( Carter, 1998 :17). In some moments oranges seem to represent heterosexuality. But generally they represent more than heterosexuality, they symbolize the entire repressive regime that Jeanette’s mother supports. When Jeanette is old enough to decide for herself, she circulates oranges as  herself, within a broader  community of “mothers,” wom en who satisfy her various anddeveloping needs. She sometimes “breaks” an orange with one of these women in an almost   ritualistic dramatization of the act of “giving” h er body to other women. Jeanette thus defines her separateness partly through exerting her right to choose fruit other than the obvious. Perhaps her mother is at last beginning to recognize this separateness when toward the end of the novel, she states, “after all . . . oranges are not  the only fruit” . (Oranges, 1996 :167)Throughout the e ntire book, Jeanette’s mother believes that oranges are the only fruit,  but Jeanette can see that there are other. Heterosexuality is just one way of Heterosexuality is just one way of living life, but there are many others that should be equally valued. As the author  of the novel did, Jeanette must become aware that “she is different, that while for everyone else“oranges are the only fruit”, for her they are not.”( Preda 2010:227 -228).As she writes in an introduction to a later edition of the book, “Oranges is a threatening novel. It exposes the sanctity of family life as something of a sham; it illustrates by example thatwhat the church calls love is actually psychosis and it dares to suggest that what makes lifedifficult for homosexuals is not their perversity but other people’s.(p.XII)  Jeanette initially observes that she disagrees the pastor's contention that man was"perfect" before the fall. Later, she will disagree when the church says that same sex love isincorrect and that women should not take responsibility in the churchThroughout the novel, the traditional nuclear family structure is challenged in a number of ways . Firstly, the father in Jeanette’s household is a weak figure and doesn’t get involved in family decisions, or in the development of the narration. As Jeanette says of him :”Poor dad, hewas never quite good enough’(p.11). Jeanette’s mother is the dominant figure in the relationship and controls her father either through ignoring him completely or making sure he conforms tothe rules of behavior established by her religion. Her mother also takes on the household roles conventionally attached to men, thus undermining the father’s role in the family.She is for  example, building a bathroom for the family(p. 16).The marriage seems to be one of convenience. It is explained on the first page, for  example, that Jeanette’s mother “had a mysterious attitude towards the begetting of children; itwasn’t that she couldn’t do it, more that she didn’t want to do it. She was very bitter about the  Virgin Mary getting there first. So she did the next best thing and arranged for a foundling’.(pp.3 -4) Although Jeanette’s family is not conventional, one of the alternative social units in the novel is the church group to which Jeanette and her mother belong. Women predominantly people this group and it is, in one sense, a kind of matriarchy, at least in its everydayorganization, although the authority of the male pastors at crucial times in the text, show thatthis is a contingent an localized form of female power. Winterson’s interest in the novel is the way in which dominant rules of behavior and ideologies were used to fix traditional gender roles and sexual conventions, and they are particularly interested in the way these rules have limited women’s behavoiur.  By writing Oranges are not the only fruit, Winterson transposes her life into fiction and,also, as she herself stated, re-creates herself as a fictional character. |Her life becomes a story, while the story comes to lfe. Winterson’s story becomes her life in the mind of thereadership.”Each new book is a n ovel journey through the mysterious woods of literary language”. (Preda, 2010:230)  Bibliography:Keryn Carter (1998): The Consuming Fruit: Oranges, Demons, and Daughters, Critique: Studiesin Contemporary Fiction, 40:1, 15-23 Childs Peter, Contemporary novelists: British fiction since 1970. Basingstoke, Hampshire ; NewYork : Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.Botescu- Sireţeanu Ileana, The fiction of Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson : thenarratological approach. Iaşi : Lumen, 2007  Preda Alina, Jeanette Winterson and the metamorphoses of literary writing. Cluj- Napoca : Argonaut, 2010
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