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Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Jeanette Winterson

Chapter 3: Leviticus

Chapter 2: Exodus

Chapter 3: Leviticus, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Jeanette's mother is preoccupied with unsaved souls, which she refers to as the "Heathen," particularly with their neighbors, referred to as "Next Door." One Sunday, Jeanette, her mother, and her mother's friend, Mrs. White, return home after communion. Once inside, they hear strange cries from next door. Jeanette's mother looks horrified and declares that the neighbors are fornicating. Mrs. White asks for a wine glass, which Jeanette's mother claims to have for medicinal purposes, to better listen at the wall. The adults send Jeanette out for ice cream so she will not hear the unholy sounds. Jeanette thinks to herself that she does not know what fornication is or why it is so loud, but she knows that it is a sin.

After Jeanette returns, all three women sing a hymn for the benefit of Next Door. The neighbors react by banging on the walls and pipes. Their dismay pleases Jeanette's mother so much that they sing the second verse even louder. A young male neighbor rushes into their backyard to yell at them and Jeanette's mother responds by happily chastising him with scripture.

Jeanette's mother has long helped to convert others. One day soon after she was saved, a neighboring pastor asked her to become the treasurer for their religious community, the Society of the Lost. Jeanette's mother accepted and soon doubled membership in the society. The previous treasurer left because she was opening a guesthouse for the bereaved in nearby Morecambe. Jeanette and her mother visit there several times. On several occasions, Jeanette meets a friend of her mother's there who arranges wreaths for the death. On one occasion, Jeanette helps this woman with the flowers and gets on well with her. Jeanette then states that she will work with this woman again in the future.

One Sunday, a big society meeting is held in Jeanette's town. When the sermon begins, Jeanette finds that she develops her first theological disagreement. The sermon concerns perfection, which the pastor professes was man's condition before his fall. As she listens, Jeanette's narrative slips away into another fantastical story separate from her own world.

A prince longs for a wife and heads out with his faithful companion, an old goose. The prince is searching for a woman who is perfect. After three years of searching, no such perfect woman has been found. The goose tells the prince that the prince is looking for something that he will never find because it does not exist— a perfect woman. The prince responds by cutting off the goose's head.

After three more years of the search, the prince writes a book called The Holy Mystery of Perfection and presents it to his advisors. One day, the sounds of a beautiful melody lead him to a house outside of which stands the most beautiful woman that he has ever seen. The prince decides she is perfect. The woman, however, initially refuses to speak to him and later refuses to marry him. The prince gives the woman a copy of his book, but she simply frowns and takes him into her house. After three days, the prince re-emerges. The woman has explained to the prince that the nature of perfection derives not from flawlessness, but from a symmetrical balance of the different parts of one's character. The prince admits to his advisors that his old opinion was incorrect, therefore he should write a new book and apologize for killing the goose. The prince's advisors, however, insist that the prince can do no such thing because a prince is never wrong. One advisor and the prince resolve on a different solution.

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