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Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Jeanette Winterson

Chapter 5: Deuteronomy: the Last Book of Law

Chapter 4: Numbers

Chapter 5: Deuteronomy: the Last Book of Law, page 2

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Summary

The narrator speaks directly to the reader in this short, three-paged chapter. There is no discussion of Jeanette or her life, nor is there any reference to some of the fables previously mentioned.

The narrator explains that time deadens people's memories. People then construct stories to explain what happened in the past. Stories help to soften the passing of time by creating characters and plots that seem to be alive. But everyone makes up a different story based upon the same set of facts. The complex process of telling stories, of making histories, resembles a string full of knots that often becomes a cat's cradle in its complexity.

Often people differentiate between those stories that they believe to be fiction and history, which is considered fact. This separation between fact and fiction allows one to know what to believe. But the narrator finds this strange. If the stories known as history are easily believed then their true factual basis can be manipulated, which is what has happened over time. This manipulation of history has helped to maintain political empires and make others rich.

The creation of history also can deny past events when the historian leaves the questionable events out of the storyline. In this way historians can make history look the way that they want it to. The narrator then speaks of Cambodian leader Pol Pot who tried to start his country anew by destroying its history—burning all its documents and books. We question whether his actions were more honest than the rest of us who go around reshaping our past. The world did not think so.

Destroying so-called history that no longer pleases you generally is easy. Photos and documents can be burned and people can be destroyed. Dead people cannot testify to the truth about what happened. Some people live their lives collecting remnants of the past. These people represent a form of the living dead as they only surround themselves with dead things. Other people like the Pilgrims and the New World explorers were curious and set forth to on adventures. History later will grant their approval or disapproval.

The past is malleable and can be shaped in many directions depending on how we look at it. But stories create order and balance. The narrator always reads history books, however, with the knowledge that the information in them has been shaped. Only God knows if some event was actually true, but humans are not God. Instead, the narrator compares the act of constructing history to the act of constructing a sandwich. She advises that it is always best to prepare your own sandwiches.

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