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Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Jeanette Winterson

Chapter 6: Joshua

Chapter 5: Deuteronomy: the Last Book of Law

Chapter 7: Judges

Mrs. White is cleaning Jeanette's house when Jeanette returns home. Jeanette sees that the house has been cleaned, but cannot figure out why. Jeanette had earlier tried to tell her mother about Melanie. Jeanette thinks her mother had not understood, but as Jeanette does not entirely understand either her mother's reaction does not distress her. Still Jeanette's uneasiness reminds her of an "Awful Occasion," which took place when her biological mother visited their house. On that day, Jeanette saw a woman at the door, but her mother would not let Jeanette know who she was. Instead, Jeanette listened through the wall. Later she had yelled at her mother for letting her see her true mother. Jeanette's mother then struck her and insisted that she is Jeanette's true mother, and that the other mother was no more than a "carrying case." After that evening, Jeanette and her mother never speak of the issue again.

Jeanette thinks about how she recently has spent all her time with Melanie, often sneaking to her at night when she was supposed to be at Elsie's. Jeanette told her mother about her overwhelming affection for Melanie because Jeanette has always been very open with her mother. Besides Jeanette thinks that her mother may have suspected as she once checked Melanie and Jeanette's room when Melanie was sleeping over. Her mother never clearly responds to Jeanette's confession.

Jeanette's mother is out when the house is clean, so Jeanette spends the night at Melanie's even though she was supposed to stay with Mrs. White. When they get to church the next morning, Miss Jewsbury eyes them and tells them to stay calm. Soon after, the pastor points toward Melanie and Jeanette and accuses them of falling under Satan's spell. Jeanette defends her love for Melanie arguing that she can love both Melanie and the Lord. Melanie, on the other hand, immediately repents. After Jeanette and the pastor quote scripture to one another, Jeanette runs out of the church. Miss Jewsbury takes Jeanette back her own house. Later that evening Miss Jewsbury physically approaches Jeanette when Jeanette is sleeping and they make love even though it disgusts Jeanette.

The next morning Jeanette finds her mother, the pastor, and other church members at her house. Jeanette denies that she spent the night at Miss Jewsbury's house. From 8.30 a.m. until ten p.m., the church members pray over Jeanette, and beg the demons to renounce her. Jeanette still refuses to yield. After they fail, the pastor tells Jeanette's mother to lock her in the parlor for the next thirty-six hours and deny her any food.

In her confinement, Jeanette becomes delirious and visualizes the demon that occupies her. The demon is orange. The demon explains that everyone has a demon in them and that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Accepting your demon will give you a difficult and different time, but it will be worth it. When the pastors and elders appear after the thirty-six hours, Jeanette repents quickly because she is hungry. The demon reappears and Jeanette tells it that she is only falsely repenting to escape the parlor. The church members are elated and inform her that Melanie has been sent away.

Jeanette finds where Melanie is staying and Miss Jewsbury drives her there. Jeanette falls asleep in Melanie's room and dreams that she is in a stone city called the City of Lost Chances. She ends up in the "Room of the Final Disappointment" which is where people who have made the Fundamental Mistake go. When Jeanette awakes, she is burning up with glandular fever. After Jeanette goes home, her mother suggests that the fever shows the demon being pushed out of her body. Jeanette's mother searches through her belongings and burns her letters. Jeanette decides that her mother is not her queen anymore.

Jeanette slips into another feverish dream where she visualizes a ransacked Forbidden City. Stone walls and monuments surround the city. A stone can also kill a warrior in this land. Jeanette thinks that one has to choose oneself or the wall instead of falling off, like Humpty Dumpty who tried to sit on it. Jeanette thinks that with a chalk circle one could travel past the walls unprotected, but is not sure. She realizes that something inside her is changed.

Jeanette recovers her senses as her mother is passing her a bowl of oranges. Jeanette rips open an orange and sees her orange demon sitting in its middle. He tells her that she has made her choice and that there is no going back. He throws her a brown pebble and disappears.

During the summer that follows, Jeanette's life returns to normal, which includes her being deeply involved in the church. Melanie and Miss Jewsbury both have gone away. No one mentions the incident. The society organizes a large mission retreat in Blackpool.

Jeanette preaches at the retreat to great success. Late one night, their singing and praying disturbs some male neighbors from the nearby boarding houses. The men long for quiet so that they can sleep. Members of the congregation suggest that they will go to hell for their protests, but Jeanette defuses the situation by ending the retreat for the evening.

Jeanette soon feels drawn to Katy, a new convert from Blackpool. After returning home, Katy helps Jeanette by typing up her sermons. The Society's attempted musical collaboration with the Salvation Army band fails because the society women are too unmusical. Jeanette comforts them after this rejection. Jeanette leads a Bible study class and preaches frequently. Melanie returns at Christmas to visit. Jeanette is surprised to see her and refuses to talk or walk with her on several occasions. At their last meeting on a bus, Melanie offers Jeanette an orange, but Jeanette declines to take it. Later that evening, Jeanette sees Katy at church and Katy tells her to come spend the weekend in her caravan.

Here the narrative shifts into a description of a secret walled in garden on the banks of the Euphrates. The garden contains every type of plant in the world. An orange tree sits in its center next to a time dial. The fruit of the tree causes joy for some and pain for others. To eat of the fruit of the garden makes the eater long for other things. One you leave the walled garden you will never return.

Katy and Jeanette sleep together that night. Their love affair starts then but will continue for many years. Jeanette does not find it incongruous to love Katy and continue in the church. More than a year after the exorcism of Jeanette, Jeanette sees Melanie on Palm Sunday. Melanie tells Jeanette that she is going to be married. Jeanette feels angry and disappointed. On another later day she sees Melanie's fiancé and she spits at him.

Analysis

The Biblical Book of Joshua starts at a new historical beginning as the Hebrews are no longer enslaved and have returned to Israel to claim their promised land. During the Battle of Jericho, God rewards their faithfulness. After the Hebrews surround Jericho for seven days and blow their trumpets, the walls surrounding Jericho fall to the ground, showing the triumph of good over evil. With the fall of Jericho, the Hebrews were able to move into the legendary Promised Land.

Both the stone walls that fell around Jericho and the concept of the Promised Land are important for Jeanette. Jeanette will fight many battles in this chapter, but will triumph in the end because she will come to understand and accept her homosexuality. In the beginning, Jeanette feels that she loves Melanie as much as she loves God and does not think that she is doing anything wrong. In fact, Jeanette confesses her love for Melanie to her mother because she feels so happy about it. Soon Jeanette's pure love will come face to face with the rigid regulations of the church. The later exorcism of Jeanette, especially with her thirty-six hours of confinement, demonstrates the coldness and cruelty of her church family. The harshness of this blindly religious treatment conjures up images of previous such persecutions, such as some of the early witch trials. Winterson's documentation of Jeanette's persecution broadly testifies to the prejudicial treatment that homosexuals frequently suffer in society.

Although Jeanette faces conflict in her external world, the possibility of her someday finding a Promised Land of her own begins to open inside her. The orange demon allows Jeanette to clearly see what has been working inside her. She finds that demons are not necessarily bad, but that they simply make each person different. She initially repents due to hunger, but she does not make the demon leave. This false repentance is the beginning of Jeanette's successful conquest over her internal territory. She refuses to yield to the church's rhetoric over her internal sense of self.

The image of the stone wall appears in several of Jeanette's delirious dreams. In these dreams, Jeanette stands in cities that are surrounded by stones or by walls. These walls are a metaphor for the social forces that distort her self. Both in the City of Lost Chances and the Forbidden City, Jeanette finds herself looking out at the world beyond the walls wondering how she could manage to survive in the forests beyond. In other words, Jeanette sees that while these walls, i.e. the structure of her society, protect her, they also confine her. She longs to liberate herself but doubts her ability to wander safely in the world. In the middle of her chapter, Jeanette stands in a serious dilemma. If she frees herself from the walls, she will be alone in the cold forest. During her dream about the Forbidden City, she conjures up the image of Humpty Dumpty who tried to sit on the wall instead of choosing a side. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and could never be put back together again. His solution does not seem to be the right one. Miss Jewsbury, however, appears to have attempted the Humpty Dumpty solution since she has lived for many years within the church and with lesbian desires. Jeanette does not want to choose this technique, but her future path with regards to her self and sexuality remains unclear.

After her exorcism, however, Jeanette appears to be changed. She holds numerous responsibilities in the church, including preaching and teaching Sunday school. She also shows her leadership abilities by comforting church members in times of crises, in Blackpool and with the Salvation Army. The congregation overreacts in both scenarios and only Jeanette, unholy though she is, has the intelligence and balance to set things right. By the end of the chapter, Jeanette has started a new love affair with Katy. After their first night together, a fantasy sequence appears about an Eden-like Garden near the Euphrates. This garden's centerpiece is an orange tree, which appears to represent heterosexuality, but its truth does not apply universally to everyone. One can eat from whatever fruit you want to within the garden and there are many. By the end of the chapter, Jeanette finally is able to make it past those walls by eating from the garden of her true self. She has at last found her Promised Land by being true to her desires. This lengthy chapter represents the peak of the action in the novel where the book's conflict comes to the forefront.

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