An Analyze of the Points of View in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Notes on a Scandal

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    Jan 20, 2013
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Understanding various ways a writer creates a point of view helps readers analyze stories. “Point of view is the narrator`s relationship to the world of the work” (Griffith 2006:37). It is an author`s voice that she/he uses to tell the story. This essay will discuss the points of view in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winerson and Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller how it affects characters, theme, setting and language.

The novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winerson is written from first person point of view, the protagonist Jeanette`s. She is the narrator of the story and we have her conscience from when she is seven years old until time after her teenage years. Havin her as first person narrator gives the reader access to her mind and thoughts which make it easier to sympathize and emphasize with the character. However, there are parts of the book that are narrated by third person point of view as the protagonist reveals herself through fairytale stories and myths. “This point of view is third person because the narrator refers to all the characters in the third person, as he and she” (Griffin, 2006:37). “He has heard tell of a ruined chapel, or an old church, no one is sure, only sure that it lies disused and holy, far away from prying eyes” (Winterson, 1985:132).

Furthermore, this means that Jeanette as center of the story, her problems and struggles becomes the themes of the novel. As she narrates the story we get to know her internal conflict which is due to being lesbian and how she struggles to choose between church and her sexuality. “The devil had attacked me at my weakest point: my inability to realize the limitations of my sex” (Winterson, 1985:132). Jeanette has to make a choice in life whether to stay safe with church or to follow her heart. A choice to make that will change her world upside down.

By giving the main character`s name Jeanette as the name of the author makes the reader believe that a part of Winterson is transformed to the protagonist in the novel. It is an autobiography book but at the same time not. Winterson has tricked and playes with our minds to make the story truthful and in the same time ironic. She has put fairytales and myths and tries to see her trough the historical figures as she moves on with her life. What is clearly in the story is that Winterson use the same tone in her writing that convinces us that the protagonist is certain of her sexuality and there is no slightly doubt about it. “The narrator conveys his or her attitude through the way narrative devices are handled, including choice of words” (Griffin, 2006:39).

The story is also not written in chronological order which makes the reader confused. From one point it is the seven years old protagonist narrating and on the other the teenage protagonist. And it is switched back and forth. As Jeanette describes her teacher Mrs. Virtue it is told from Jeanette the grown up girl. “Mrs. Virtue should either have had the imagination to commend me for my effort in context, or the farsightedness to realize that there is a debate going on as to whether something has an absolute as well as a relative value; given that, she should have given me the benefit of the doubt” (Winterson, 1985:44). Jeanette places the action of the teacher in a wider perspective of human conditions and how people see her and how they normally act in equal situations. The passage of time makes it confusing and difficult to have a clear image of the protagonist. However, “Authors often use the passage of time as a thematic and structuring device: The mere fact that some specific amount of time has passed may be important for understanding characters” (Griffin, 2006:62-63).

The novel Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller is also written from first person point of view and we have Barbara, the protagonist as the narrator of the story. “In the first-person point of view, one of the characters tells the story and uses the first-person pronoun, I” (Griffin, 2006:38). “I am circumspect by nature and she…well, she isn`t” (Heller, 2003:2). Having Barbara`s mind and thoughts places the reader directly into the heart of the main character and lets the reader feel her emotions that are written. Her actions, judgments and opinions about other characters come from her thoughts as first person narrator. Through her mind we get to know other characters personalities as she describes from her point of view.

Barbara`s thoughts and feelings become the themes of the novel which is loneliness, obsession and delusion. Barbara touches on interesting themes such as the power of secrets, class jealousy and delusion. She is an emotional predator who cannot connect with others but who desperately needs someone in her empty life such as Sheba. “How will Sheba ever manage on her own? Who will do the shopping and cook her meals? Who will make sure that she showers every day? I`m not sure I can bear it if I have to go back to being on my own again“ (Heller, 2003:240). Barbara decides to write a journal in her friend`s, Sheba`s defense but she ends up revealing not only Sheba`s secrets, but also her own. Heller`s command of the English language is excellent and she tells a story with characters who readers can tottaly believe in. The whole story is painted in Barbara`s words and it is through the tone of the main character that we can see Barbara`s obsessive relationship with Sheba. “It seems to me that if Sheba had made a wiser choce of girlfriend-if she had chosen me over Sue from the start-it is quite possible that she might have avoided the Conolly imbroglio“ (Heller, 2003:41). Barbara narrates the story of Sheba`s affair while inadverantly and indirectly revealing her own obsessions and her possessive, domineering and demanding characters, she says: “This is not a story about me“ (Heller, 2003:4). But it is. This can describe the course of a predatory frienship and demonstrates the lenghts to which some people go to human company. By this choice of setting Heller is to reverse readers` loyalties, so that through the narrator people around the main character and readers find her somewhat disturbing.

Shortly, the authors` intention by choosing this point of view is to express everyday life circumstances of the human conditions through the main characters. In the novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette who is living in a working class society has to make decision in life whether to stay safe with church in a made up world by society or to push forward and face reality and truth about herself and her sexuality. In Notes on a Scandal, Barbara narrates the story about her relationship with Sheba and how love becomes hatred which leads to betrayal and indignation.

Corpus: Griffith, Kelley, (2006). Writing Essays about Literature. Boston: Thomas Wadsworth. Heller, Zoe, (2003). Notes on a Scandal. London: Penguin. Winterson, Jeanette, (1985). Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. London:Vintage.



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