Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Elsie Norris Character Analysis

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.
Get the entire Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit LitChart as a printable PDF.
Oranges are not the only fruit.pdf.medium

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.
2. Exodus
Storytelling, Fantasy, and Invention Theme Icon
Religion and Control Theme Icon
...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)
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
...able to hear again. Her mother could not visit her until the weekend, and so Elsie Norris came to call each day, telling jokes and stories, which she said would help... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...the oranges in bed, much to her nurses’ chagrin, and shared them with the toothless Elsie during her daytime visits. (full context)
Storytelling, Fantasy, and Invention Theme Icon
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Elsie told Jeanette about the power of manifestation—thinking about something for long enough that it happens... (full context)
Storytelling, Fantasy, and Invention Theme Icon
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
...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)
Storytelling, Fantasy, and Invention Theme Icon
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
...in the wrong place—the sampler would be perfect in church or as a gift for Elsie Norris, but was not right for sewing class. After Jeanette didn’t win the prize, she... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Jeanette reflects on other projects she made for school throughout the year—many with Elsie’s help, and all focused on religious themes. None won any prizes, and Jeanette grew angry... (full context)
6. Joshua
Storytelling, Fantasy, and Invention Theme Icon
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
...is something different about spending the night with Melanie. Often, she and Melanie stay at Elsie’s house to evade suspicion, though Elsie seems to know what the two of them are... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
...asks Miss Jewsbury who told her what was going on, and Miss Jewsbury answers that Elsie Norris did. Jeanette is deeply hurt, but Miss Jewsbury insists that Elsie was only trying... (full context)
7. Judges
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...next day, Jeanette attends the Sisterhood meeting at her church. It is the first time Elsie has been in attendance for a long while. Elsie knows what is happening, but holds... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
After the meeting Jeanette goes to Elsie’s, who reveals that Miss Jewsbury has moved to Leeds, is teaching music, and is “not... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...said is a “load of old twaddle.” Jeanette turns around and finds that it is Elsie who has spoken up. Elsie dissolves into a coughing fit, clearly agitated, and then falls... (full context)
8. Ruth
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...jobs in one day. One day, making her rounds in the van, Jeanette turns onto Elsie’s street. She doles out some ice creams and then parks the truck. She goes into... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
The next day at the funeral parlor, Jeanette’s bosses tell her that Elsie’s funeral is to be held there the following day at noon. Jeanette volunteers to clean... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...outcast in her congregation, and that there will be chaos if she shows up to Elsie’s funeral. Jeanette’s boss tells her that he doesn’t care, and Jeanette agrees. (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Jeanette manages to lay the food out surreptitiously without being noticed while Elsie’s service is going on in the next room, but when it is time for ice... (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...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)