Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit


Jeanette Winterson

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Themes and Colors
Storytelling, Fantasy, and Invention Theme Icon
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Women and Womanhood Theme Icon
Transgression and Forgiveness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Storytelling, Fantasy, and Invention

Jeanette Winterson the writer and Jeanette the character are both keenly aware that life can often be stranger than fiction. In writing an autobiographical novel based heavily on her own experiences growing up as an adopted child in an evangelical household in a small, working-class English town, Jeanette Winterson the author blurs the line between the real and the unreal, the recorded and the invented, to communicate the emotional experience of her childhood. Though most…

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Religion and Control

Jeanette and her mother’s lives revolve around a religion that is evangelical, strict, and often fatalistic. While the church offers solace, community, and even fun to the young Jeanette, as she grows older and discovers her sexuality, the church becomes a place of hate, control, and fear. Even when Jeanette breaks free of the church, she cannot leave behind these vestiges of her religious upbringing, which prevent her from feeling at peace with who…

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Women and Womanhood

The world of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is ruled by—and mostly populated by—women. With the exception of Jeanette’s pastor and her father (who is only mentioned in passing), the characters in the “real” story of the novel are overwhelmingly women. In addition, the fantastical stories that occupy Jeanette’s dream life depict men as being somewhat flat: evil sorcerers, weary knights, or judgmental princes. In populating the story of her childhood primarily with…

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Transgression and Forgiveness

At the heart of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit lies the question of what constitutes a transgression against someone you love, and what it means to forgive someone who has transgressed against you. This question comes up again and again as the conflict between Jeanette and her willful (and often abusive) mother escalates. As their sins and slights against one another mount, the prospect of true forgiveness becomes more and more uncertain, and yet…

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