Private Peaceful

by

Michael Morpurgo

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“Oranges and Lemons” Symbol Analysis

“Oranges and Lemons” Symbol Icon

The song “Oranges and Lemons” is a symbol of hope and strength, and most importantly a reminder of family. Big Joe always sings the song to himself for comfort, so it ends up comforting Tommo and Charlie too, because it reminds them of Big Joe and their home. The song also becomes a symbol of strength and solidarity for the Peaceful family, because it allows them to feel connected as a unit when they sing it. An early example is when the Colonel comes to the Peaceful cottage to try and fire Charlie for stealing his old dog (whom the Colonel was planning to shoot the next day), but is shown up by Mrs. Peaceful, who pays for the dog so that it is technically no longer stolen. As he leaves, the whole family sings “Oranges and Lemons” in their collective victory, and in defiance of the Colonel, making sure to sing loud enough that he will be able to hear them on his way out.

Later, Charlie and Tommo sing the song as they leave for the First World War in an effort to comfort themselves in their fear. It connects them not only to each other, but also to the family they have left behind, reminding them to be strong for everyone’s sake. Most importantly, just before Charlie is executed, he and Tommo sing the song together. It reassures them both and affords Charlie the courage to face his death. At the moment of Charlie’s execution itself, both boys sing “Oranges and Lemons” at the same time, knowing that they are connected because of this. It is all they can do in the face of Charlie’s inevitable fate, but it seems to offer both some comfort and strength.

“Oranges and Lemons” Quotes in Private Peaceful

The Private Peaceful quotes below all refer to the symbol of “Oranges and Lemons”. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Private Peaceful published in 2003.
Chapter 13 Quotes

They tell me he walked out with a smile on his face as if he were going for an early-morning stroll. They tell me that he refused the hood, and that they thought he was singing when he died.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker), Charlie Peaceful
Related Symbols: “Oranges and Lemons”
Page Number: 194-195
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Private Peaceful LitChart as a printable PDF.
Private Peaceful PDF

“Oranges and Lemons” Symbol Timeline in Private Peaceful

The timeline below shows where the symbol “Oranges and Lemons” appears in Private Peaceful. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Five Past Ten
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...the boys’ mother. He spends most of his time sitting “up in his tree singing Oranges and Lemons , and laughing.” Tommo says that “Big Joe is always happy, always laughing,” and that... (full context)
Chapter 2: Twenty to Eleven
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
...Colonel leaves, Mrs. Peaceful cries, and the children gather round to comfort her, singing “ Oranges and Lemons ” loudly so that the Colonel can hear them. (full context)
Chapter 3: Nearly Quarter Past Eleven
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...and the children throw a grand funeral for it. They all sing hymns and “ Oranges and Lemons ” and bury the mouse at the bottom of the garden. (full context)
Chapter 6: Nearly Five to One
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...down to Charlie, and the boys all cheer ecstatically. Then Big Joe starts singing “ Oranges and Lemons ,” and they all join in, “crying and singing at the same time.” The boys... (full context)
Chapter 9: A Minute Past Three
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...nothing will ever matter again.” He then decides to keep himself awake by singing “ Oranges and Lemons ” the way Big Joe always used to. (full context)
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
...the boys become almost cheery from the singing. Soon Tommo and Charlie start singing “ Oranges and Lemons ,” and everyone else joins in. Tommo can’t believe the contrast between Wilkes and Hanley.... (full context)
Chapter 10: Twenty-Five Past Three
Courage Theme Icon
...Anna kisses him on the cheek. When Tommo heads back to camp, he sings “ Oranges and Lemons ” “at the top of [his] voice” all the way. (full context)
Chapter 11: Nearly Four O’Clock
Courage Theme Icon
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...it to stop, only for Charlie to lie next to him and start singing “ Oranges and Lemons .” Soon, everyone is singing the song, but eventually they realize that even “Oranges and... (full context)
Chapter 12: Five to Five
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...minutes, Tommo assures Charlie that he is not worthless. Then the boys start singing “ Oranges and Lemons ” together, singing “it out loud so that the whole world can hear.” They laugh,... (full context)
Chapter 13: One Minute to Six
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...back home.” As Charlie waits for the moment of his death, he is singing “ Oranges and Lemons ,” as Tommo is now also doing. (full context)