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Atonement and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

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‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’ and ‘Atonement,’ are novels from different backgrounds and historical periods, therefore resulting in diverse family upbringings. Both novels however are similar in the way that they each display dysfunctional family relationships, triggered even further by dramatic events which create tension and conflict within each family and between family members. ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,’ is situated in the North East of England in the 1970’s.

It is a semi autobiographical novel, narrated in first person by a young girl named Jeanette and presents the tales of her life growing up in a Pentecostal family. Jeanette is immersed into the life of the church by her Mother, who adopts Jeanette in order to train her for a missionary life devoted to God. Jeanette’s Mother has adopted Jeanette in order for her to fulfill her life long aspiration as opposed to love and happiness, immediately establishing a poor maternal bond between mother and daughter. In contrast the time set of Atonement is a summer’s day, in 1935.

The location is the Tallis family estate, containing the family home in the heart of the Surrey Countryside, an idyllic setting for such a contradictory novel. The Tallis family is the core family unit within in, ‘Atonement,’ consisting of two older siblings Cecelia and Leon and a vastly younger child Briony, who are the offspring of Jack and Emily Tallis. McEwen’s novel is written in three parts including an epilogue; throughout the novel the events are written by an anonymous, third person, who later is discovered as an older version of Briony Mr. and Mrs.

Tallis are guilty of withdrawing from the lives of their children, Emily is constantly ill and Jack works out of town, however both parents continue the illusion of being actively involved, as Emily Tallis reassures her husband, ‘that there was no need to feel guilty,’ for constantly being away from his home and his children. This quotation illustrates the lack of communication and interaction both parents share between their offspring as in reality their children, especially Briony desperately need strong parental support, but with both parents, ‘absent.

Briony is allowed to reign free in her activities and her imagination, while her physiological maturation is complicated largely by certain events she witnesses between her sister and Robbie, especially after she wrongly accuses Robbie. Briony should have come to her mother with her suspicious thoughts rather than let them grow in her undeveloped immature mind, ‘If she had would not have committed her crime. So much would not have happened, nothing would have happened. ‘

McEwen may use the lack of parental supervision and love Briony receives from her parents as away for the reader to sympathies with Briony’s character, if she felt as though she could trust and confide in her Mother the Tallis family future may have been vastly different. Like Emily and Jack Tallis, Jeanette’s mother is also oblivious to the wellbeing of her daughter, especially when Jeanette goes temporarily deaf; her mother believes she is in a state of rapture; however it is Mrs. Jewsbury who has to intervene and demands that Jeanette receives medical help.

Mrs. Jewsbury looked at Jeanette in, Horror and, taking the pen herself wrote ‘What is your mother doing about this? Why aren’t you in bed? ‘ Mrs Jewsbury is clearly questioning Jeanette’s mothers parenting skills with this quotation and is shocked and appalled at the way Jeanette’s Mother has handled the situation so she steps in to undertake a motherly role. Furthermore after Jeanette’s operation on Tuesday, her Mother does not visit until the weekend, which leaves Elsie Norris a friend of Jeanette’s and of the church, to intervene and compensate for the maternal discard of her Mother by visiting Jeanette daily.

Elsie’s friendship offers Jeanette access to ideas that contradict her Mother’s restricted views, giving Jeanette a chance to feel, ‘A thrill of excitement,’ because she knew her ‘mother disapproved,’ This quotation proves that Elsie opens Jeanette’s mind to expression and feeling, which indicates dissension from her Mothers beliefs, Jeanette’s deafness is the turning point for the novel as Jeanette realises the importance of relativity through Elsie’s character.

Elsie suggests a Moses figure, leading the Israelite Jeanette to the Promised Land of imagination and to an unbiased, knowledgeable and tolerant view of the world without the church, as Jeanette states, ‘I love God and I loved the church, but I began to see that as more and more complicated. ‘ at this point Jeanette understands that the church is not as stable as her Mother has brought her up to believe, therefore her mother has complicated her. Winterson uses Mrs. Jewsberrys’s and Elsie’s involvement with Jeanette’s health and welfare in order to highlight the neglect and abandon her Mother has towards her daughter.

Cecelia also acts like a second mother towards her younger sister Briony in, ‘Atonement,’ as she comforts her sister in times of need, ‘When she was small and prone to nightmares… Cecelia used to go and wake her. Come back, she used to whisper. ‘ This quotation portrays Cecelia demonstrating a Mother like duty, she is offering Briony security and protection where her Mother cannot, To some extent Cecelia substitutes for the loss of attention Briony receives from her Mother and Father, by consoling her in times when she needs adult support.

McEwen, like Winterson uses another character to emphasize the lack of affection the central character is receiving, allowing us to sympathies a great deal with Jeanette and Briony. Cecelia’s demand of Briony to, ‘Come back,’ gives the reader a sense that Briony’s character is changing or that the novel is about to rapidly change, Cecelia even detects how much, ‘Her little sister is changing,’ through her actions and response to her, as she seems distant and vague which causes great concern to Cecelia, McEwen uses this quotation to give the reader the impression that the structure of the novel is about to change.

Cecelia and Briony’s characteristics are alike as they both possess the childlike desire to be the centre of attention; however Cecelia does not maintain a close bond with her parents, especially her Mother, as when Emily Tallis is not nurturing her headaches she seems ‘distant even unfriendly,’ towards Cecelia. Acting this way towards her daughter is forcing Cecelia to drift further apart from her mother, In fact Cecelia even refers to her mother casually as, ‘Emily,’ this suggests that Cecelia does not portray ‘Emily,’ as a mother figure and their relationship is distant.

Even when Briony makes accusations against Robbie, ‘Emily,’ firmly stands by Briony’s judgment and turns her back on Cecelia. Jeanette’s Mother’s Dogmatic views are also suggested through the imagery of the fruit, ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,’ This epigraph signifies that there is a range of fruit to choose from, not just one, relating to the Church and that there is more to life than the church. This quotation also proves that Jeanette’s Mother only sees the world through black and white terms, ‘holy or unholy,’ or ‘right and wrong’ and nothing in between is accepted.

This attitude is also reflected through Briony’s character as she finds it difficult to distinguish between right and wrong. Imagery is also signifigant to, ‘Atonement,’ the image of a triangle is prominent throughout the novel. When Robbie grabs the vase from Cecelia, two triangular pieces break off. One of the Twins has a triangular piece missing from his ear, which could represent their family triangle, of two parents and children or Lola and the twins been torn apart. Briony is also a part of another triangle.

Together with Paul Marshall and Lola, as Briony has, Comprised with silence and falsehoods to send an innocent man to jail,’ McEwen uses the relationships between Briony and Lola to extend the cracks in the Tallis family household further. Lola is also to blame for her family’s downfall, as Lola fails to tell the truth about her rape. The family circumstances in, ‘Orange are not the only fruit. ‘ allow the reader to also sympathies with Jeanette’s character.

Jeanette’s Mother possesses firm religious beliefs and her rigorous enforcement of them on her daughter has an immense impact on Jeanette life, I have been brought in to join her in a tag match against the rest of the world. ‘ This quotation proves that Jeanette has not been brought up like any other child, Jeanette’s knowledge of the world has come from her Mother’s obsessions and narrow minded views on religion, which have not helped Jeanette to fit into a society outside of the church. For example Jeanette does not integrate well at school. Jeanette’s mother labels school as a, ‘breeding ground,’ most mothers however see school as a way of giving their child the best start in life and a firm education.

Jeanette’s character is left lonely and isolated, as she fails to fit in at school, which will only create more social problems for Jeanette to encounter later on in life, therefore Jeanette’s life has been dictated and Jeanette has been brainwashed by her Mother and her devotion to faith. Like Briony’s character, Jeanette does not receive a large amount of loving parental attention, which is the likely reason why Jeanette and Briony rebel. Jeanette goes against her mother’s beliefs when she falls in love with Melanie, which could be seen as a way of retaliation and punishment against her mother for bringing her up, ‘against the world.

Briony and Jeanette are the central and most developed characters within the two novels. We meet both characters as young girls who are just beginning to understand their place in their family and in the world. Briony and Jeanette are greatly linked through additional fiction. Both McEwen and Winterson use additional fiction to enhance the themes and events in their novels and use plays, like ‘The Trails of Arebella,’ and fantasy stories to relate the themes and events played out in the main story. Atonement,’ opens with McEwen informing us of the purpose of Briony’s melodrama, ‘The Trails of Arbella,’ which she intends to perform with her three cousins in order to impress her brother and ‘provoke his admiration,’ for her.

Through the ‘Trails of Arabella,’ We are introduced to Briony’s extravagant and over active imagination as Briony deeply imagines the outcome her play will have on her brother, Briony hopes that her play will guide Leon, ‘Away from his careless succession of girlfriends towards the right form of wife, the one who would persuade him to return to the country side. This quotation makes it clear to the reader that Briony uses fiction to escape her loneliness in her attempt to create her own perfect world.

The fact that she uses her play to persuade her brother to return home proved that she misses life without her siblings, showing that she perhaps feels lonely and isolated. McEwen also presents us with a glimpse of Briony’s manipulative nature through this quote. The fact that Briony has already judged her bothers choice of girlfriend as, ‘careless,’ before he has met one, is narrow-minded and juvenile of her.

Briony has quickly judged Leon in the immediate way she judges Cecelia later on in the novel In the opening of ‘Atonement,’ we are also introduced to a normal family ambience; Briony is extremely passionate and enthusiastic about performing her recent play, ‘Trails of Arabella,’ and Emily Tallis, ‘took her daughter in her arms, onto her lap. ‘ Here we are introduced to a rare mother and daughter bond, this may be why Briony is so involved in her writing, as it allows her to escape from her constant state of loneliness and acquire attention.

Briony obtains, ‘her family’s total attention as she casts her narrative spell. ‘ ‘Cast,’ and ‘Spell,’ appears to the reader as a magical gesture, suggesting that gaining her family’s attention is rare and a special event like magic, as if her plays magically allow her to enter her own perfect world rescuing her from her otherwise isolated and lonely childhood. Just like McEwen, Winterson also uses fiction in the form of fairytales, which relate to the story played out through the novel.

A prominent Fairytale in ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’, centre’s around a forbidden city and displays a literary reference to ‘Humpty Dumpty. ‘ The original nursery rhyme displays the message of not being able to put something back together again, which at the point in the novel reflects the relationship between Jeanette and her mother. As Jeanette vows never to forgive her mother for destroying Melanie’s letters, therefore their relationship will never be the same. Winterson uses dysfunctional fairytales to show Jeanette’s character coming to terms with family life and growing up in a lonely confusing world.

The use of a nursery rhyme emphasizes the situation between Jeanette and her mother. Both Jeanette and Briony’s characters are lonely and confused and uses fiction to create an idealistic world. Furthermore Winterson and McEwen use additional fiction and fairy story’s to extend our understanding of relationships within each family. The use of first person narrative throughout the novel gives the is effective in undermining the authority of the church, the fact that Jeanette points out to the reader that the picture of the Lord had a blob of egg on one foot,’ This is totally unnecessary, but successfully adds dramatic impact and humor to the novel and creates a comic scene between both Jeanette and her mother.

Winterson also creates imagery by taking a potentially banal and ordinary situation and creating a surreal and amusing scene. An example of this is during Jeanette and her mother’s conversation about school juxtaposed with the potted beef sandwiches adding an element of humor into the novel and depicting an image of Jeanette’s mother as ridiculous,

McEwen also manages to include humor into, ‘Atonement,’ through the relationship between Cecelia and Leon, McEwen gives the reader a glimpse of the pair fooling around as children declaring that a, ‘a giggling fit was always just a breathe away,’ There astounding connection enlightens the novel and adds a comic image of two typical children messing around as youngsters. Leon’s character is filtered through Cecelia’s childhood admiration for him and is in awe of her older brother.

Cecelia and Leon’s sibling bond is the only firm, genuine and steady relationship within, ‘Atonement. McEwen may use Leon’s character and his strong bond with Cecelia, as a way of making Briony feel jealous and left out as she is a lot younger that her siblings, therefore she cannot really relate to their mentality, leaving her feeling alone and isolated In conclusion, ‘Atonement,’ and ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,’ demonstrate a mixture of similarities and differences in the way that families are presented within both novels. The use of additional fiction is significantly prominent within each novel in order to portray and empahasise family relationships and relate to the main events happening outside these imaginary tales.

Also the lack of maternal bond; in both novels depict the wellbeing of the effected characters, especially Jeanette and Briony, as well as Cecelia. Furthermore there is also a clear mother substitute present in the two novels. The novels are dissimilar due to the different ways the parents are identified as ‘unfit’ parents. Jeanette’s mother’s religion is an ongoing obstacle in their mother and daughter relationship, whereas Emily and Jacks ‘absents,’ due to illness and work adds to the deterioration of their family unit.

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