“Jeanette Winterson’s, Oranges are not the only Fruit
“Jeanette Winterson’s, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit consists of eight chapters, all named after biblical books, following Jeanette thru her upbringing in a traditional society. Jeanette is discovering a new world, within a conventional world, consisting of homosexuality. This causes her to question her sexuality, gender, and the customary role she has been following all her life. Jeanette is forced to make some tough decisions and choose whether she will be her own person, or fall under the pressure of society and hide who she really is for the “norm.” There are three instances in the book that illuminate “Queer Theory,” mentioned in Meg-John Barker’s, Queer: A Graphic History. This theory assists in looking at the book thru a contrasting angle, evaluating characters’ purpose for their feelings.
Since the emergence of human beings, gender roles have taken place almost immediately. God appointing Adam as the leader (control over Eve,) kitchen play sets/Barbie’s for girls, monster trucks/Nerf guns for boys, and concluding who can wear certain clothing, etc. These things passed on from generation to generation, forcing individuals to condemn to certain roles. It left certain individuals feeling confused and bewildered. Jeanette’s mother, a common religious lady who tries raising Jeanette to be like her. Jeanette’s mother only sees black and white though — the world of heterosexuality – “She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies” (Winterson, Pg.1).
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Judith Butler’s concept, mentioned in Queer: A Graphic History, “The Heterosexual Matrix” defines a “norm.” However, that norm is not constructed it just comes natural to society, and any other way of living is considered to be unnatural. Jeanette’s mother displays this behavior when Jeannette is not so fond of the pink raincoat bought for her. Jeanette’s mother buys the pink sweater and forces it onto Jeanette, emphasizing her wanting her daughter to identify a certain way, as well as associating the color pink with femininity. Jeannette, however, does not associate with this “norm” (pink=girl) and has feelings of confusion. She says, “The unknowns of my needs frightens me. I do not know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met” (Winterson, Pg. 170). The construction of gender roles leads millions of people with confusion and dismay. Butler says, “says, “Historical and Cultural diversity in how gender is understood (from one gender to many, from highly important to unimportant) shows us that identities need not be binary, nor bases on our current understandings of what it is to be masculine/feminine” (Barker, Pg. 78). This means what was seen as usual then, is not the usual now. Jeanette was raised in a household where the “norm” was heterosexuality and gender was binary. It is no surprise she is not fond of the pink sweater as she grew up with morally arbitrary accordance, as well as specific rules.
The fairytales throughout the book tend to relate to Jeanette’s situations at the moments and her feelings towards them, initially queering the text as a whole. In one fairytale, Winnet Stonejar and the Wizard, Winnet is tricked by a sorcerer to become his novice. Later she falls in love with a boy who her father disapproves of, locking him up. Winnet arrives in an unknown village and a hidden identity. Although she is saved, she feels like an outsider and cannot relate to their culture. This tends to sum up Jeanette’s upbringing: her mother tricking her into thinking there is only ONE “norm.” Jeanette says her mother would give her only oranges and no other fruit. The orange can represent only one spectrum of gender, and/or sexuality that Jeanette’s mother conveys. When Jeanette’s mother found out Jeanette was lesbian, she kicked her out. “The Straight Mind,” concept by Monique Wittig, illuminate society’s control over inequality. She “argued that gender and sexuality are so intertwined that being a woman only makes sense in a heterosexual context; lesbians are therefore not women!” (Barker, Pg. 16). Jeanette’s mom despised Jeanette for not being a “woman.” Jeanette being raised with this specific “norm” says, “this was clearly not true. At that point I had no notion of sexual politics, but I knew that a homosexual is further from a woman that a rhinoceros. Now that I do have a number of notions about sexual politics, this early observation holds good. There are shades of meaning, but a man is a man, wherever you find it” (Winterson, Pg. 129). These roles have been constructed for centuries making it seem as the usual for everyone.
The “Queer Theory” relates to Jeanette Winterson’s, “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” several ways. Not only does the queer theory focus on LGBTQ+ topics, but the concept of queerness itself. Jeanette, throughout the book, was struggling for a way to live a happier life. She had a different view than everyone else around her, making her non binary.”