An elderly member of Jeanette’s church and Jeanette’s first—and only—childhood friend. It is Elsie who visits Jeanette in the hospital most frequently when Jeanette is recovering from surgery on her adenoids, and Elsie who encourages Jeanette to make creative religious-themed projects for school despite her classmates’ and teachers’ disdain for them. Elsie also allows Jeanette and Melanie to sleep over at her house. It’s revealed that Elsie knew what the two of them were up to the entire time, but wanted to shelter them from harm. Elsie does eventually reveal the truth of Melanie and Jeanette’s affair to Miss Jewsbury, and as Jeanette grows older Elsie grows increasingly sick and is frequently absent from church services and events. When Jeanette is called out as a sinner in front of her congregation, though, Elsie stands up for her, and calls on the church to stop attacking Jeanette and do something to actually help her come to terms with who she is. It is the last time Jeanette ever sees Elsie, as she is soon after expelled from the church and Elsie, unbeknownst to Jeanette, passes away. Elsie’s death is a major moment of reckoning for Jeanette, who, as a result of being cast out of the church, is not even made aware of her friend’s death. When Jeanette, who works at the local funeral parlor, serves ice cream to church congregants during Elsie’s wake, chaos breaks out as members of the community balk at Jeanette’s presence among them, though it was Jeanette who was perhaps closest to Elsie out of all of them. Elsie’s arc ties in most directly with themes of women and womanhood, as she is one of Jeanette’s first models of kindness and piety without agenda, meanness, or desire for control.
Elsie Norris Character Timeline in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
The timeline below shows where the character Elsie Norris appears in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...odd things happened in sevens. As an example, Jeanette’s mother told her friends to consider Elsie Norris. Nicknamed “Testifying Elsie” by the other members of the congregation, Elsie, an elderly churchgoing... (full context)
...of the hospital, her mother was away on a church endeavor, and Jeanette stayed with Elsie for a few days. At Elsie’s house, the two played music and built religious-themed dioramas... (full context)
...briefly, Miss Jewsbury asks if Jeanette will come visit her—Jeanette declines, and Miss Jewsbury leaves. Elsie’s funeral is the last time that Jeanette works in the funeral parlor—she takes a new... (full context)