The main internal conflict in the novel, as I see it, is between the religious views of Jeanette and her actual persona. The religious views of a community where deviants are heathens and sinners stunts Jeanettes growth as a person, it confuses her and creates conflicts, both within herself and with her relations with others. This is showed by her inability to acquire any friends when she is sent to school as a child, since she can not relate to the other children, or their worlds of perception, to her there is only the Bible and the way of her mother. This confusion becomes even more prominent when her sexual orientation differs from that which her community regards as wholesome and sound. All this is shown in the relationship and the conflict between mother and daughter, which is the main external conflict in the novel. The conflict between the religious beliefs and thoughts of Jeanette with that of the outside world is also a prominent external conflict, and one that is important to understand when you try to interpret the actions of Jeanette. There is one example of this where her conviction that she is right prevents her from being sad (42) and throughout the whole novel this conviction keeps her up and running, and prevents her from being destroyed, but when this conviction is The climax of the plot would be when Jeanette’s mother and the priest subject her to an exorcism and when she is expelled from the house and her home with nowhere to go, this is where the whole plot has it’s climax and after that there is only a strive for finding herself and her place in life.
The novel ends with a certain air of resignation, Jeanette goes back to live with her mother, who seems to ignore the fact that she threw her daughter out of the house. This together with the confusion Jeanette expresses, and the decline of the Society, does not, in my opinion, represent a resolution, more a resignation, and in some ways a redemption. A redemption which is quite fitting since the chapter is called Ruth, a scripture that has redemption as it’s most prominent theme. The same can be said for all the chapter headings, especially Genesis (the beginning of life itself), Exodus (the slavery in Egypt and the exodus is equivalent to Jeanette’s life when she goes to school and leaves her home), Joshua (where Joshua sounds the trumpets and makes Jericho’s walls fall has it’s parallel when Jeanette’s theological world crumbles and she is subject to an exorsism) and Judges, which is an intriguing example of how Jeanette Winterson connects the chapters of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit with the chapters of the Bible. Many consider Ruth to have been part of the judges mentioned in Judges, but she was excluded due to the conventions of the society that argued that a woman can not hold a leading role in the Bible, which is comparative to how Jeanette is excluded and made a pariah from the Society. On page 4 Winterson writes “She was Old Testament through and through.” which is an encapsulation to her mother, and to a certain extent provides the explanation of why the books of the Old Testament has been chosen as chapter headings, aside from being very fitting as descriptive and associative themes for each chapter which induces a short and brief interpretation and renders the reader contemplating and expecting what the chapter is going to depict.This is also true for the title of the novel, since the title itself suggests a variety of options, of possibilities and worlds. It refers to that nothing has to be one sided, which is also true of the construction of the novel and it’s relations with Time and Truth. If you reverse the title to Oranges Are the Only Fruit you end up where the novel starts, with a woman possessed by her thoughts on what is the only and righteous path in life, that of Jeanette’s mother. But as the novel continues the different possibilities are presented and in the end even Jeanette’s mother has to agree that “After all, oranges are not the only fruit” (167)
There are interludes which quite often are used to describe Jeanette’s confusion and the clash of the two worlds which she is residing in (the Christian and the world of her own persona).“He had gone for his own sake, nothing more” (168) which is what Sir Percival says in one of the interludes, and it concludes Jeanette’s journey, from the exile from home that her mother forced upon her and her return, and I believe this is a good explanation of that Jeanette is very much aware that she choose this path herself and that it took her on a journey. Another example of this is the story of Winnet “One thing is certain, she can’t go back”(155). One could interpret this as the authors way of viewing literature, that nothing has set terms and regulations for what you can do with it, and the expression of her thoughts on the interconnection of books and stories through time, which again is connected to the title, there is not one set possibility or option.
A great book with other words, and recommended reading!