When Jeanette is caught having an affair with Melanie, another young girl from church, both of them are publicly shamed in front of their entire congregation. Jeanette is then subjected to an exorcism when she refuses to repent—her pastor advises her mother to lock her in the parlor for three days without food, and during this time, Jeanette reckons with what she has done and why it is considered so evil and bad. Knowing that demons get in when there is a weakness, Jeanette wonders how such a pure thing as love could create a demon. As if in response to her wonderings, an orange demon appears in front of her, and tells her that everyone has a demon—keeping one around and acknowledging its presence makes life more difficult, but will perhaps make Jeanette’s life in particular more enjoyable. The demon then disappears. It reappears every once in a while to Jeanette, ensconced in an orange or in the corner of her bedroom, to remind her of the choice she has made to keep it around—to be true to herself will be challenging, but she cannot deny her nature and the truth of her identity. The demon symbolizes Jeanette’s wary self-acceptance, and her inability to repress who she truly is. It is significant, too, that the demon is orange—the color of comfort, for Jeanette, and a reminder of the ever-present gulf between the care she has always deserved and the care she has received. Oranges were her mother’s paltry way of comforting her—now the orange demon has stepped in to offer a new kind of comfort, which is not warm and fuzzy either, but which at least allows Jeanette to accept herself, even tentatively, and move forward with her life.
The Demon Quotes in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
“Renounce her, renounce her,” the pastor kept saying, “it’s only the demon.”
“I can’t,” I said. “I just can’t.”
“We’ll come back the day after tomorrow,” he confided in my mother. “Meantime, don’t let her out of this room, and don’t feed her. She needs to lose her strength before it can be hers again.”
My mother locked me in [the parlor.] She did give me a blanket, but she took away the light bulb. Over the thirty-six hours that followed, I thought about the demon. I knew that demons entered wherever there was a weak point. If I had a demon my weak point was Melanie, but she was beautiful and good and had loved me. Can love really belong to the demon?
“They’re looking in the wrong place,” I thought. “If they want to get at my demon they’ll have to get at me. If I let them take away my demons, I’ll have to give up what I’ve found.”
“You can’t do that,” said a voice at my elbow. Leaning on the coffee table was the orange demon.
“What do you want?”
“Everyone has a demon,” the thing began, “but not everyone knows how to make use of it.
“Demons are evil, aren’t they?” I asked, worried.
“Not quite, they’re just difficult.”
“If I keep you, what will happen?”
“You’ll have a difficult time.”
“Is it worth it?”
“That’s up to you.”
The demon vanished.
“Here you are,” said my mother, giving me a sharp dig in the side. “Some fruit. You’re rambling in your sleep again.” It was a bowl of oranges. I took out the largest and tried to peel it. The skin hung stubborn, and soon I lay panting, angry and defeated. What about grapes or bananas? I did finally pull away the outer shell and, cupping both hands round, tore open the fruit.
“Feeling any better?” sitting in the middle [of the orange] was the orange demon.
“I’m going to die.”
“Not you, in fact you’re recovering, apart from a few minor hallucinations, and remember you’ve made your choice now, there’s no going back.”
I was almost asleep when the pastor appeared with my mother hovering in the background. He stood a safe distance away like I was infected. The pastor explained to me as quietly as he could that I was the victim of a great evil. That I was afflicted and oppressed, that I had deceived the flock. My mother gave a little cry, then got angry again. They started arguing between themselves whether I was an unfortunate victim or a wicked person. I listened for a while; neither of them were very convincing, and besides, seven ripe oranges had just dropped on to the window sill.
“Have an orange,” I offered by way of conversation. They both stared at me like I was mad. I lay for a long time just watching the oranges. They were pretty, but not much help. I was going to need more than an icon to get me through this one.
“Daughter, you have disgraced me,” said the sorcerer, and I have no more use for you. You must leave. Winnet could not ask for forgiveness when she was innocent, but she did ask to stay.
“If you stay, you will stay in the village and care for the goats. I leave you to make up your own mind.” He was gone. Winnet was about to burst into tears when she felt a light pecking at her shoulder. It was Abednego, the raven she loved.
“[If you leave] you won’t lose your power, you’ll [just] use it differently. Sorcerers can’t take their gifts back, ever.”
“And what if I stay?”
“You will find yourself destroyed by grief. All you know will be around you and at the same time far from you. Better to find a new place now.
Winnet sat silent at the edge of the fireplace. The raven, struck dumb, could not warn her that her father had crept in, in the shape of a mouse, and was tying an invisible thread around one of her buttons.