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“Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” as Work of Modern Myth

The novel by Jeannette is a masterpiece. “Oranges are not the only fruit” in a book that sees the author shift from first-person narration to third-person narration. The shift uses a technique common to the ones that fables apply while telling children stories. In this essay, the similarities between Jeannette’s story and Joseph Campbell’s story will be explored. The book commences when Jeannette was seven years old and was living with her adoptive parents in England. Jeannette is the protagonist; she takes the reader through her life stories (Winterson 13). Joseph Campbell is known for the study of myths and the exploration of consciousness. Campbell’s teachings were based on the radiation of life through myths, and they mostly tell about initiatory adventures. Campbell was a brilliant mind that is known for the enhancement of the usage of myths in psychology. Most scholars believed that myths only had a sociological dimension until Joseph Campbell explored the psychological one. Myths were portrayed in a new light by Joseph Campbell’s philosophies and gave scholars a chance to look at society in a new dimension.

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The reason for gaining popularity in the twenty-first century was that Campbell found a way to connect ancient stories and modern life’s emotional concerns. The scholar believed in the need for heroes for a society to flourish. Failure to have heroes, according to Campbell, meant that society was going to fail and fall. The vitality essential that a hero provided a society was continued existence which meant that values and morals were incorporated. At this point, the familiarity with the two great authors and their discoveries is cemented, and now on, to looking at the similarities of their work. Joseph Campbell came up with twelve stages of the Hero’s journey. In this essay, an evaluation of whether the protagonist of ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ meets the criterion. There is a unique style that myths in the past that Jeannette applies in her book, which gives the reader the function of an observer who has to accept everything that the narrator says even though it may be extraordinary (Winterson 45). The fusion of modern dark humor and the overseeing storyteller role that Jeannette assumes, which was used in Western Folk and fairy tales, engages the audience.

In the past, Joseph Campbell explained the traditional mythos that made it possible to conceive literature. Many modern literature stories have moved away from the Hero’s Journey, Monomyth, and Cosmogony cycle. Oranges are not the only fruit, however, embrace the Hero’s journey technique and make it possible to view a return to the traditional mythos. Philosopher Campbell shows a strong character who is the Hero of every society. Jeannette tells her story as the Hero of the story as she comes out as the figure of strength and a goddess conceived from a ‘virgin birth’ (Winterson 32). The traditional arc method that the story follows is the Hero’s journey, which is explained in philosopher Joseph Campbell’s works. Through the exploration and the deep dive into Jeannette’s book, the similarities of Campbell’s works start to show and manifest in this century. Looking at Campbell’s philosophies one understands that a hero does not get celebrated from the get-go by their society. There are several stages that the individual has to go through so that the society accepts them and recognizes them as a hero, thus the name, Hero’s journey.

The first stage of the Hero’s journey is the known or ordinary world. In the known world, according to Campbell is where the Hero gets the calling to adventure. In the case of Jeannette’s story, one may think that her calling did not happen and all the occurrences were coincidental, which is not valid. Jeannette is living in her ordinary world with her mother in a very religious community, and some things are unacceptable and unheard of in this society. Jeannette realizes that she loves women and for her lesbianism is her way of living. Campbell says that there exist a lot of ways that the adventure can begin because sometimes a hero who is then an ordinary person is led into the unsuspected world, into contact with forces that may be hard to fathom. The adventure begins there, and in Jeannette’s case, she appears in a state where she is relating to the forces, which marks the start of her heroic journey. The unfortunate bit in this story that draws the reader in is the nature of Jeannette’s relationship. Her relationship is commonly perceived as one of unnatural passion. The storyline follows the inciting incident method because of its unique nature. Lesbianism is unheard of in this community as everyone is extremely religious. Love should only be between a man and a woman, and the rest should not exist; therefore, the only explanation for thoughts on homosexuality is possession by the evil spirits.

There is a norm in society, and Jeannette, the Hero is on an adventure and in a relationship that breaks the norm. The next step is the refusal of the call stage in Campbell’s Hero’s journey, and in everyday life, there are situations where people let calls go unanswered which happens in Oranges are not the only fruit (Campbell 88). Jeannette outright refuses to follow the path of the call at the beginning. Jeannette does not deny her feelings, but she does not allow herself to fall in love with women. The case of elders leading the Hero to go with the most primal of their instincts will fail in Jeannette’s story, which makes her a hero. A character’s progression in a Hero’s journey can be uttered and wholly terminated by refusal to answer the call. The primal urges are meant to stop the journey which the ancestors do not want to be explored. The quest for success for any hero means that they have to conquer and win against the primal urges they possess. The crossing of the threshold is the last thing in the known stage where the Hero meets their mentor. The story of Jeannette is unique and exciting because she has two mentors. In Jeannette’s story, the effect of combining two pieces of advice from different people into one principle is learned.

Ms. Jewsbury shows Jeannette in a conversation regarding the Elsie incident the truth about the vision tunnel of the congregation. The congregation finds out about Jeannette seeing Katy, and they confront her (Winterson 78). The incident with Elsie where she tries to defend her and falls and Jeannette tries to help and is stopped by the congregation is the absolute threshold. The congregation’s focus should be on the issues that Elsie is facing now, but they are too immersed in what Jeannette has done to care. Jeannette is facing a lot initially as Elsie, one of the first people she confided in, dies, and she does not know if there are people in the society left that she can trust. The insightful talk she has with Ms. Jewsbury is life-changing as it gives her the courage to start a relationship with Katy. The Hero’s Journey in Campbell’s philosophies involves a mentor who pushes the Hero to make the first critical step in their journey (Campbell 77). Jeannette’s community whom she is called to be a hero does not see it that way, and she faces a lot of trials. Jeannette is scorned by her community and hated for what she does and who she is to the point that she is exiled from her people (Winterson 50).

The exile part of Jeannette’s journey is the abyss in Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey philosophies. Joseph Campbell says for heroes to return victorious and be respected in their community, they have to face this abyss. Jeannette’s only way to return is after her society has mended its way of thinking and broadened its scope of accommodation by disregarding the discrimination they now practice. At the end of the book, a representation of the return is shown through the goddess’s gift, which facilitates Jeannette’s chance to return to normalcy. The Hero returns, but normalcy cannot be attained because her time away in the abyss has given her access to knowledge and semblance of another way of life through the power of different relationships. The stage is the reward step in the special world where Jeannette seizes the sword and makes the best out of her ordeal stage by gaining knowledge and being a better version of herself. Before she left, Jeannette had exuded the type of person she was, and the people had shown their true colors.

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The trial, allies, and enemies’ stage shows the people in her life for who they are. Melanie, the coward in this hero story, repents and is forgiven and absorbed back into society (“What makes a hero?”). Ms. Jewsbury gives her the advice she needs the most, and she stands by her side the whole time, even making love together the night before she leaves the community (Winterson 84). The ordeal stage was not easy for Jeannette as she has to face her challenges head-on and have everyone judge her. Jeannette’s mother, who locks her in a parlor and refuses to give her food, is one challenge, and the elders who lay hands on her for being a lesbian are a complex challenge. The church leaders believe she is possessed and has to be prayed for to rescue her from her demons. Jeannette and her mother’s relationship is also explored in this story as they have a good one in the first seven chapters of the book, but it becomes strained as the book continues.

Jeannette starts to discover herself, what she likes and who she is, and her mother does not support her. She realizes that her mother’s love is conditioned only when she does what she wants (Winterson 14). Being the person her mother wants her to be, meant not answering the call of adventure, which is not what heroes do, so Jeannette chooses her path. According to her mother, a world of oranges is all she is supposed to know, who does not understand her. Jeannette believes there are other fruits other than oranges because every time she tells her mother that she does not agree with something, her mother pushes it down her throat and tells her, ‘here is an orange’ (Winterson 49). Campbell explains his philosophies about a strong female figure in the one-point legend and myth stories portrayed as some mother. In his analysis of Greek mythology, he explores Gaia, who is mother earth ‘the world-generating spirit of the father passes into the manifold of earthly experience through a transforming medium- the mother of the world’ (Campbell 89).

In Jeannette’s story, she is the strong goddess figure. All the olden days’ stories used to have a strong female character because, as Joseph Campbell realized, there cannot be a father without a mother. After all, fathers come from mothers. The narratives changed mostly to the ones told by men, and the strong figure was partially controlled. Jeannette shows that she is a strong female figure by standing her ground on the things she believes in her story, she says she was conceived of a virgin birth which marries Campbell’s interpretation. The philosopher explains how significant the virgin birth is about the birth of Jesus Christ. The way Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to be sure to give birth to the perfect savior. Jeannette’s story is similar and is depicted through the return of traditional mythos as discussed in Joseph Campbell’s philosophies. All this evidence shows that Jeannette is the epic Hero that Campbell puts in an elite classification.

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The hero’s journey: Joseph Campbell on his life and work. New World Library, 2003.

“What makes a hero?” YouTube, uploaded by Ted-Ed, 2012.

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