In Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson uses many references of biblical allusion and religious metaphor to develop the novel. The chapters are named after the books of the bible in the Old Testament, ranging from Genesis to Ruth. As the story of Jeanette, the main character of the novel, is told, it is compared to the corresponding books of the bible and many metaphors are used in the book to show their similarities.
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Exodus, which is the second book of the bible, talks of Moses liberating the slaves and of the Promised Land. It also talks about the flight of the people of Israel from Egypt. In the book, there are examples of flight and being liberated as Jeanette is finally able to attend public school. Once she goes there, it is as if she can finally get away from her home and her mother and experience things on her own.
In the bible, Leviticus is full of rules and guidelines for living and worshipping. Similarly, in the book, Jeanette’s mother has given her many rules. Some of them include her hatred of fornication, and sin in general. This chapter marks, though, the theological disagreement that Jeanette has toward her pastor’s teachings. This shows the beginning of her search to find herself while discovering that she has a different view of things than that of her mother and congregation.
In the book of Numbers, it reveals God’s instruction and preparation of His people to enter the Promised Land. The importance of the Book of Numbers is shown by its being referred to in the New Testament many times. This goes along with what is happening in the novel with Jeanette. As the biblical book of Numbers gives preparation for the Promised Land, the novel prepares us as readers for what is to come for Jeanette now that she is exploring the subject of romance. It shows that Jeanette may have an interest in women, and that is essentially what makes her happy. Whether or not her mother agrees, Jeanette is in transition from believing her mother’s views to discovering her personal views in search of her own “Promised Land.”
The biblical book of Deuteronomy contains the teachings of Moses and provides most of the basis for biblical law. The Ten Commandments are also in this book. While both the biblical book and the novel chapter of Deuteronomy deal with teachings and following the rules, the novel does it in an opposite way than does the bible. In the bible, the teachings of Moses are given, while in the novel the teaching of Jeanette during her sermon are given, but in a different way because instead she questions the laws itself. There is still a metaphor being used but Winterson is trying to show not only the similarities but also the differences.
Judges, which is the sixth book of the bible, tells of the battle of Jericho in which the Hebrews come back to claim their Promised Land as they are no longer enslaved. The battle of Jericho relates to what Jeanette is going through as she will fight many battles to defend her homosexuality. She will battle with her mother and her church and will be ostracized for her beliefs, but in the end she will come to accept her homosexuality no matter what people think, just as the Hebrews will claim their Promised Land.
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In the biblical chapter of Judges, Israel is run by many different leaders, some without great success. Jeanette also feels as if she is run by many different leaders, which are her mother, the congregation and her pastor. At this time in the book, Jeanette is having a love affair with Katy and still a member of the church. She feels that she can love Katy and God at the same time, but her many “judges” feels that she is doing something wrong.
The eighth book of the bible and the last book of the novel is Ruth. In this biblical book, the main character, Ruth, deals with issues of exile. Ruth is a Moab but marries a Hebrew man. Once her husband dies, she decides to stay in Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi. In their eventual journey to Bethlehem, Ruth faces prejudice against her since she is a foreigner. The story of Ruth relates to Jeanette because she is also dealing with exile and a relationship with her mother. She is a foreigner in her world because she is homosexual and the majority of the world is not. She is thrown out of her home and members of her congregation have disconnected themselves from her and shown her the same prejudice that Ruth felt.
Winterson uses biblical allusion in this book because of the strong biblical views that surround the main character, not necessarily held by her. Jeanette has been raised to believe the things that her mother tells her about religion. She grew up in a fundamentalist religion and as it is shown in the novel, they have extreme ways of thinking. Once Jeanette matures, she realizes that she doesn’t particularly agree with everything that her mother, congregation, and pastor preach. So she embarks on her own journey and questions the teaching that she’s been “forced to believe.” It is only fitting that since the plot surrounds religion, that the chapters should be the same names as books in the bible. With each chapter and corresponding biblical book, Winterson parallels Jeanette’s life to what is going on in the particular bible book. She does this to show that while Jeanette is on her journey to find herself and question the religious beliefs she has been brought up to believe, her life is ironically similar to the books of the bible. I think by relating the story of Jeanette to the bible, it helps the reader understand more and to further analyze hypocrisies that surround her in her life.
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