Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.


The title of the novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit demands an explanation that can only offered through analyzing the many appearance of oranges in the story. On the broadest level, these oranges represent the dominant ideology that pervades the world in which Jeanette lives. Whenever Jeanette feels uncertain about something, her mother offers her oranges. In some circumstances, these oranges appear to strictly represent heterosexuality. But generally they represent more than just the dominance of heterosexuality; they represent the entire repressive system that Jeanette's mother espouses. When Jeanette sees Melanie after their relationship has ended, Melanie offers her an orange but Jeanette refuses to take it. Her refusal represents her refusal to succumb to the ideas of the status quo as has Melanie. Jeanette wants to remain true to her own principles and decides to head out into the world, but refuses to ever sell oranges. Throughout the entire book, Jeanette's mother believes that oranges are the only fruit, but Jeanette can see that there are others. Heterosexuality is just one way of living life, but there are many others that should be equally valued.

Difference Between God and His Servants

The presentation of hypocrisy amongst the followers of God appears frequently in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Nowhere in the novel does the main character ever decide that she is against God. What becomes clear to her as she grows, however, is that her church, like many others, often decides what God believes in ways that the narrator finds to be untrue. Jeanette initially observes that she disagrees the pastor's contention that man was "perfect" before the fall. Later, she will disagree when the church says that same sex love is incorrect and that women should not take responsibility in the church. By the end of the novel, Jeanette still feels closely aligned with God but decides that much of the church's rhetoric is false. In addition, she often observes that the church members broadly preach guidelines but do not follow them sincerely in their hearts. Winterson's commentary upon the subjective nature of stories additionally questions the notion of an accurate interpretation of God's will. In her Deuteronomy chapter, Winterson critiques blind adherence to biblical law by demonstrating that even the contents of a biblical book were shaped by its narrator. Just as the member of Jeanette's church have their own agendas, so too could have these biblical narrators—which affected the things that they wrote.


Images of death and dying constantly surface in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and act as a commentary upon the lugubrious world surrounding Jeanette. Most members of the Society of the Lost live almost like the living dead. They worship ancient rhetoric about a dying martyr and refuse to let their living spirits guide them. Jeanette, on the other hand, nourishes her spirit and represents life. When heading to Melanie's house, she grabs flowers off cemetery graves for her love. The image of these fresh flowers in the midst of such decay points to the contrast between Jeanette's acceptance of her living true self and the lifeless regime that the Society for the Lost promotes. The contrast can be seen again when Jeanette and Katy stay at the guesthouse for the bereaved. The owner of the guesthouse, a Society member, discovers the love affair of Jeanette and Katy during their stay. The subtext of this discovery is that the passion and life present in Katy and Jeanette stood out so much that it was noticed. Ultimately, Jeanette will come to be an attendant at a funeral parlor and will be charged with preparing the dead for their final placement. The irony in Jeanette's position is striking, because she actually she has been helping to care for the living dead throughout her days. Jeanette appears to be one of the few people up for the task.