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Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Jeanette Winterson

Chapter 2: Exodus

Chapter 1: Genesis

Chapter 2: Exodus, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Jeanette's mother and Jeanette are discussing why Jeanette has to go to school. Jeanette's mother says that she will go to jail if Jeanette does not go. The radio broadcasts an account of the family life of snails and Jeanette's mother violently declares such a program to be an abomination. Jeanette considers this program and decides that her mother is overreacting.

As Jeanette's mother gets her ready for the first day of school, Jeanette remembers a time when she lost her hearing. When it happened, her mother and her church thought that she, at the symbolic age of seven, had gone into a state of rapture where she was communing deeply with the Lord. Jeanette then talks about Elsie Norris a church member who is obsessed with the number seven (praying at both seven a.m. and seven p.m.). Elsie believes in numerology and often casts a die to see what Bible passage she should read.

When Jeanette lost her hearing, she wrote a note to her mother telling her that the world had become very quiet. Jeanette's mother did nothing. Later, Jeanette met up with Miss Jewsbury, another church member, on the street. Miss Jewsbury was not aware that Jeanette was supposedly in a state of rapture and realized instantly that Jeanette had gone deaf. Miss Jewsbury took Jeanette to the hospital where Jeanette later has surgery. During Jeanette's stay in the hospital, Jeanette's mother visits her infrequently as she is busy with the church. Instead, she leaves Jeanette with a large bag of oranges. Jeanette remarks that for her mother oranges were the only fruit.

Although her mother neglects her, Elsie visits Jeanette daily in the hospital. Elsie quotes Blake, Swinburne, W.B. Yeats and the "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti. One day Elsie leaves her with two poetic lines, "All things fall and are built again/And those that build them again are gay." When Jeanette leaves the hospital, she stays at Elsie's house for a while because Jeanette's mother is busy with the church. Elsie has painted a wooden box with red flames and placed three mice called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego inside. Elsie decorates her house with photos of famous literati, politicians, and scientists. Elsie tells Jeanette that there is more to the world than meets the eye and that Jeanette must bring the one in her chest and the one outside together.

When Jeanette goes to school, she feels like she learns nothing but dancing. She looks forward to the coming summer's mission crusade with the returned Pastor Spratt. As Jeanette and her mother discuss the crusade, Jeanette's mother explains that she married Jeanette's father because he was a good man and a believer, which she needed after her debacle with Pierre. Jeanette's mother brings out an old photo album with a page called "Old Flames." Jeanette sees a photo of Pierre, some other men, and also a woman near the bottom. When asked, Jeanette's mother says that the woman was one of her boyfriend's sisters. The mother later removes the photo from the page. Jeanette's mother's family cut her off after she married Jeanette's father, because of his low birth, so that Jeanette's mother since had made the church her entire family.

Jeanette finds that other students and even the teachers ostracize her at school. Her teacher criticizes her essay about her summer religious crusade. In needlepoint class, her teacher tries hard to dissuade Jeanette from printing, "The summer is ended and we are not yet saved." Eventually, Mrs. Vole, the headmistress, and Mrs. Virtue tell Jeanette that she is too pre-occupied with God. Parents have complained that Jeanette's stories of hell have given their children nightmares. Mrs. Vole sends a letter to Jeanette's mother describing Jeanette's excessive religiosity. The report pleases Jeanette's mother so much that she takes Jeanette to the movies.

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