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Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

by: Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette's mother

Jeanette's mother is a woman characterized by hypocrisy. She is one of the most devout members of her congregation, but a close examination of her actions shows that her religiousness does not parallel her sincere goodwill to others. Most obviously the lack of charity in her heart can be seen in the way that she treats Jeanette. Jeanette's mother adopted her because she wanted to have Jeanette fight with her against the evil of the world. She plans to make her daughter a servant of God, his missionary. During the opening chapters, Jeanette's mother does appear to love her daughter, but this love is conditional upon the way that Jeanette fills her mother's expectations. When Jeanette fails to be the servant of God that her mother envisions, Jeanette's mother loves her less. For example, Jeanette's mother feels elated when she thinks that Jeanette is in a state of rapture at the age of seven. However, when it turns out that Jeanette has actually gone deaf, Jeanette's mother ignores her and tends to church affairs. A true believer in the teachings of Jesus likely would spend more time comforting her sick than tending to bureaucratic matters. Jeanette's mother lacks the compassion characteristic of a truly religious person.

In the opening chapter, Jeanette says that her mother is Old Testament through and through. The combative and even vengeful nature of Jeanette's mother follows the harsher God characteristic of that time. Jeanette's mother actively seeks out combat with others. She feels delighted when she is able to sing hymns to irritate the next-door neighbors. She spends much of her day tracking the missionary activities of Pastor Spratt, almost as if she is the map keeper during a war. While Jeanette's mother relishes religious fighting, other indication of her hypocrisy stand out in the novel. She keeps a wine glass in her house although she deplores drinking. She has a picture of a woman on her "Old Flames" page, although she deplores lesbianism. Symbolically, Jeanette's mother represents the negative unbending aspects of Jeanette's congregation. Jeanette's mother lives blindly professing to follow something that she does not keep in her heart and her rigidity ultimately will lead to her full rejection of her daughter.