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Gender relationships in “Orange Is Not the Only Fruit” portray women as strong and brave, yet socially effective figures in the society. The two stories correlate in the way that they present the struggles of women who want to stay strong regardless of the challenges they face in the society. On the other hand, this vastly limits decision making to choices that are deemed “appropriate” for women and men alike due to the fact that women do not get the privilege to make major decisions in the areas they can handle well (Winterson “Orange Is Not the Only Fruit” 78-174, and Proulx “Brokeback Mountain” 55-103).
- A: Jeanette expresses typical courageous traits: strength, pride, aggressiveness and religiosity.
- Physical description; strong brave risk taker, “Orange Is Not the Only Fruit.”
- B: Ennis and Jack use their strengths to the advantage of building relationships with those around them.
- Occasionally facing challenges with their friends; losing loved ones but eventually making it to live a good blameless life, “Brokeback Mountain.”
- C: Although the novels have various characters, there is the interconnection in the character roles, which define the different elements of the society to make the readers more fulfilled because they can identify with the characters.
Sexuality: Decision Making
Gender issues are applied to a basic research on relationships between women and men, which is based on differences and similarities of personalities and their behavior. There is also a focus on dynamic aspirations, roles and status of women in urban, industrial societies and developing nations. Gender issues are explained in many novels as writers feel that it is better to attract attention of many people when addressing to gender concerns through their works. Among such works one can find “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson, and “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx. In these novels, there is a wide use of symbols, which portray gender issues in diverse ways (Winterson 78-174).
A good example of symbolism is the use of pink mackintosh or raincoat in the novel “Orange Is Not the Only Fruit.” The mackintosh is a British word that refers to a raincoat. In the story, Jeanette’s mother buys her a mackintosh after Jeanette rips hers. The raincoat is too large for her and has a brilliant color that makes Jeanette hate it. Actually, this raincoat is used as a symbol that represents Jeanette’s mother attempts to force her do something that she does not like. The pink raincoat symbolizes the femininity that Jeanette’s mother wants her daughter to learn and maintain. Jeanette’s mother forces her to dress the raincoat over her head, which makes Jeanette think of the Man in the Iron Mask. In that story, the main character is confined in a prison where he used to have a mask over his face for many years. In “Orange Is Not the Only Fruit,” the pink coat that Jeanette is forced to wear symbolizes the ideological mask her mother is pushing to keep on her. This requires Jeanette to adopt heterosexual characteristics and follow her mother’s ideas, which on an unconscious level influence her, developing the physical distress, which consequently arises in her. Ironically, Jeanette’s sickness leads her to look around the marketplace and see Melanie who is her first love. Consequently, Jeanette is able to liberate herself from the iron mask of that pink raincoat. Her mother’s final attempt to put her in symbolic imprisonment fails to work, therefore, Jeanette is no longer in that imprisonment (Winterson 78-174).
There is also the use of three names from the Bible. The first time they are used for three white mice, which Elsie Norris places in the box that is fiery painted, and the other one is for the three ravens of the sorcerer. They were King Nebuchadnezzar’s workers during the time when Jews were in exile. One day, king Nebuchadnezzar asked them to bow to a golden religious idol, but these three men refused, reasoning that they were devout Jews. Because of their disobedience, they were cast to a fiery heater due to the King’s orders. However, these three men did not die because God rewarded them for their faithfulness. Looking at them, the King saw another creature standing near the three men in the fiery heater, and it looked like an angel. Seeing this, the King set them free, promoted them and praised to their God (Winterson 78-174).
The martyrdom of these three men and their eventual success mirrors that of Jeanette. This is portrayed in a way that Jeanette refuses to bow to an idol of sexuality. Because of her disobedience, the church members punish her in many ways. Despite her going through tough moments, Jeanette survives because of her strong faith, which she maintains within her. She believes that God will save her. Jeanette does not give in to the church unrealistic ideas, which seem idolatrous to her, and this is what brings her the final salvation. The metaphor used here entails a scathing commentary, which is upon Jeanette’s church when suggesting that by not misunderstanding God’s word they are going against His ways. Therefore, the story of the three men in the fiery heater demonstrates how God protects and saves people who are truly faithful to Him from all persecutions. Just like it worked for the three men, it works for Jeanette too, despite the manipulation and hatred by the church members because of her standpoint. Her faithfulness brings freedom to her life and the eventual promotion in the society, with the greatness on her religion version being recognized (Winterson 78-174).
The stone used in the novel has a dual meaning, but these two meanings are interconnected. In the first place, it is used to portray a possible weapon. An orange demon throws it to Jeanette after she thinks about a forbidden city, which is a place where a stone can kill a person. On the contrary, Jeanette has a unique fantasy and because of it, the stone actually appears to be a strong tool that helps Jeanette in conquering her enemies, whether they are the church members or her mother. In the second appearance of the stone, the raven Abednego coughs it up in order to keep Winnet Stonejar safe. In this case, raven represents his heart while Winnet Stonejar represents Jeanette’s mythical alter ego. The stone in this case becomes the talisman to evoke the fable of Gretel and Hansel, who use stones when they are in the forests as a way of finding their way home. The stone from the raven helps Jeanette to find her home that is actually her true self. The stone stays with Winnet during the time when she wanders through the forest till the day she manages to come to the city. In the end, the stone becomes a weapon and a guide to her home. In relation to Jeanette, she finds her self-identity through writing a novel where she liberates herself in the act of fighting the oppression she suffered in her years. The stone actually guided her home and gave her a ground to fight (Proulx 55-103).
One can also find the use of symbolism in the novel “Brokeback Mountain.” The Brokeback Mountain reveals its gloom on the plains underneath, which provokes the memories shared by Ennis and Jack that represent a temporary life, which is idyllic. As used in the novel, “Brokeback” represents everything that Ennis and Jack did during 1993 summer, and their gains and losses since that time. In the following years, Jack says that Brokeback Mountain was all that was left, which is used to mean emotions, acts and thoughts that they both shared. In addition to this, the Brokeback Mountain represents a big difference in relation to the flatlands of Wyoming, which the writer considers as a sound of the resemblance between Ennis and Jack, woman’s and man’s acceptance and resistance, present and past. Ennis constructs a memorial to his lost loved one in a postcard, in which the Mountain is used to symbolize a headstone where the relationship of men must be finally buried (Proulx 55-103).
According to the novel, the crest of Brokeback Mountain that thrusts in the sky represents the longing to rise higher and run away from the life that one had. On the other hand, the flatland of Wyoming stands for everything, which is lifeless and hopeless. Jack and Ennis grew up living on the plain, but eventually Jack leaves it and goes to Texas to build a home with his prosperous bride, while his friend Ennis is left on the plain with constant tough economic responsibilities and circumstances. The word “plain” is used here four times. Firstly, the narrator gives a description on how to be in a unique position, which is at the top of the Mountain, while the plain is the normal environment for the occurrence of ordinary affairs. The writer uses the other three “plains” in relation to Jack’s death and events that cause Ennis to go back to being ordinary. Lureen confirms Jack’s death and this leaves Ennis with sad memories of the activities that took place in the Northern plains. He later identifies the Jack’s place of burial in the cemetery and names it “the grieving plain.” Ennis is left in pain because of Jack’s death, which is a memory left with him forever. In these two novels, the readers can see the strength of women as it is portrayed in the “Orange Is Not the Only Fruit,” and the wealthy bride in the novel “Brokeback” (Proulx 55-103).