Jeanette decides to apply for an English degree at Oxford University “because it [is] the most impossible thing [she] could do.” She knows few women with real jobs, and even Mrs. Ratlow, a widow, still cooks and cleans for her two sons and never takes vacations. Feminism has not reached Accrington. As a working-class woman who loves other women, Jeanette forms a personal politics based on “chang[ing her life beyond] all recognition.”
Jeanette is defiant and ambitious as always, and seeks to grow out of the bounds of her working-class hometown. Her love of literature drives her forward, as it always has, and her desire to see herself succeed as a writer and as a woman forms her radical commitment to change.
Jeanette obtains an interview at Oxford, and travels there on a bus. She feels that she “looks and sounds wrong,” and does poorly in her interviews. Weeks later, she finds that she has not been accepted. Though Mrs. Ratlow encourages her to consider other options, Jeanette feels there are “no other options.” She and Janey travel to Oxford and camp at a camp-site outside town. Jeanette secures an appointment with a senior tutor, and though she once again finds herself babbling in the interview, explains the details of her life and her desire to write her own books. She realizes during the interview that there are both “pleasures and prejudices” at Oxford, and, after her meeting, wonders whether as a woman she will forced to be “an onlooker and not a contributor.” Jeanette is given a place at Oxford, deferred for one year.
Though Jeanette’s initial application to Oxford does not result in her admission, she feels that Oxford, despite the fact that it isn’t a perfect place or “happy ending” for her, is all that she wants in this moment. Her determination and drive to pursue her own personal happiness push her forward, and eventually she obtains an offer of admission after using her way with words and her gift for storytelling to express who she is and what she wants to her interviewer.
A year later, as Jeanette drives out of Accrington toward Oxford, she comes across Mr. Winterson in the street. She does not stop to speak to him.
Jeanette is ready to leave her stifling family life behind completely.