Literature: Gender and Jeanette Essay

Submitted By anniewelbourne
Words: 730
Pages: 3

To what extent are Winterson’s feminist messages made effective through her use of comedy in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit?

“Oranges are not the only fruit” is clearly a bildungsroman novel, this is the most obvious reading but other forms could include lesbian and autobiographical. Jeanette, the narrator and protagonist, recounts her struggles through an unconventional adolescence into adulthood. Adopted into a strict evangelical household, the battle to come to terms with her unorthodox sexuality disturbs the already precarious family dynamic. Jeanette’s mother dominants her life, clinging on to the control of her every action, with the wish to mould her into a missionary top ship off to convert foreign heathen, whilst her father is nowhere to be seen the majority of the time. Winterson laces in her feminist views throughout the novel using eccentric, humorous tone that could be argued to add more force behind the messages more than other techniques used.
The fairytale in Leviticus is amusingly subverted; a prince’s quest for a faultless bride is hijacked by the most beautiful woman, who also happens to be intelligent and extremely independent, refuses his proposal and, as we naturally assume of fairytale, to live ‘happily ever after.’ This feminist revision of gender stereotypes and politics in fairytales enlightens the reader to their own prejudices and preconceived expectations of women through the surprise of its occurrence.
The characterisation of Jeanette’s adoptive parent is another technique Winterson employs to convey her feminist viewpoint. Men are scare in the novel, with the exception of Jeanette’s father, not even referred to as such but as, “her [mother’s] husband,” this brings up the topic of gender roles form a feminist perceptive. The usual stereotyped constructs of female characters, the seductress, the shrew, the angel and the cute but helpless one, and male characters, dominant, powerful and in-control, are dismissed as her headstrong mother dominants Jeanette’s household whilst her farther is mostly absent and represented as a silly and repugnant figure not once given a voice. This reversal of roles stands up to a continued social and cultural domination of males.
Winterson’s witty mocking of Jeanette’s mother’s reasons for conversion; pastor Spratt’s uncanny resemblance to Errol Flynn and free gifts, causing “a lot of women to [find] the Lord that week,” furthers the readers sympathy to a sadly common case of a woman trapped in an unsatisfying life and marriage desperately searching for a purpose and validation , having her choice comically belittled strikes a chord within the reader, as we agree, despite our compassion for the mother’s unhappy position.
In the chapter Numbers, a fairytale is used to emphasises the emphasise the feminist opinion of women’s disappoint with men and marriage. Romantic impossibilities have leaked into Jeanette’s society as a future conclusions for young girls to yearn for,