Dialectical Journal Essay Sample

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“When she couldn’t come herself, she sent my father, usually with a letter and a couple of oranges. ‘The only fruit,’ she always said” (page 29). 1. Why did I choose this passage?
I chose this passage because of the mention of oranges. “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” is the title of the book, so as I read the passage, I immediately noted the reference to oranges. This struck me as interesting upon first glance, and I decided to delve further into the meaning behind the repetition of the symbol and what it stood for. 2. What is the meaning of this passage?

In this passage, Jeanette is in the hospital, having recently undergone surgery to repair her hearing. Her mother, a stubborn and decisive woman, frequently visits her, giving her oranges. She never gives Jeanette any fruit other than oranges, because, as referenced in the passage, to her, oranges are the only fruit. Throughout the novel, oranges serve as a symbol. Whenever Jeanette is upset or uncertain, her mother presents her with oranges as a form of comfort. The oranges represent the comfort and security of Jeanette’s childhood, as they were always there to sooth her in times of upset, specifically here in the hospital. Additionally, the oranges mirror her mother’s strong mindset, as everything taught to Jeanette since her birth was a result of her mother’s zealous beliefs. Jeanette, as many other children, was taught to believe everything said to by her parents, here being that oranges are the only fruit. As she soon discovers, though, she must branch out of the comfort of childish innocence and discover other fruit.

3. How does this passage connect to other parts of the text (any part, within or beyond the first fifty pages)? As mentioned above, oranges are a symbol throughout the novel. Throughout Jeanette’s childhood, she is taught to believe that the oranges are the only fruit. As she matures and discovers her identity, however, she is faced with the struggles of adolescence and teen sexuality. She begins to feel romantic desires for the same sex; an act that goes against all of her mother’s vehement beliefs. She is realizing that her mother’s beliefs, which have been forced upon her since birth, may not be the only way of life. She goes on to saying that “oranges may not be the only fruit,” symbolizing this transition in mindset from her mother’s beliefs to her own, self-determined values. Furthermore, when she is accused of being possessed by a demon, the demon is of an orange color. This further represents the transition between innocent childhood into adolescence and shaping her own values.

4. How does this passage connect to ideas, concepts, experiences, or writing beyond this text? I think many adolescents can relate to Jeanette’s struggles regarding homosexuality and disappointing her mother. Homosexuality is a concept that can be daunting, as many families share conflicting views. In our society, it is bestowed upon us from a very young age that same-sex love and marriage is culturally normal. Having been taught this one way from the media, society, and in our homes, rebelling against this conformity is exceedingly difficult, as Jeanette illustrated in her novel. Overall, her message of branching out against authority and making independent decisions is one that is applicable to everyone.

“She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies.”

Why did I choose this passage?
I selected this particular passage, as it seemed to pinpoint the origin of the story’s main conflict: the clash between the mother’s narrow-minded view and Jeanette’s sexuality. It also appealed to me, because I associated it with the act of categorization that we had discussed in depth earlier while reading The Psychopath Test. What is the meaning of this passage?

This passage describes the black and white mentality of Jeanette’s mother. She puts a label on everything, categorizing them as either friends or enemies. Due to the box that Jeanette’s mother has confined herself to, she struggles to comprehend things that seem out of the ordinary. When she cannot cope with queer things, she automatically labels them as her enemy. She never places any thought or feeling in the gray area that falls between her black and white extremities. The conflict concerning Jeanette’s homosexuality seems to stem from her mother’s uptight personality and strict views on life. To her, anyone who is not saved by Christ is a heathen, and since “uncertainty was what the Heathen felt,” there was no room left for uncertainty in her decision-making. The mentality of her mother had been repeatedly engraved in Jeanette’s mind all throughout her childhood, as this was the attitude that was present in the Church and at home.

The mentality of the mother is referred to frequently throughout the book in order to set the atmosphere of the family and community that surrounds Jeanette. It is just phrased differently. The book says “She loved and she hated” and that “she was wrong, as far as we were concerned, but right as far as she was concerned, and really, that’s what mattered.” It seems as though the mother is dominating authority in Jeanette’s life, but soon the respect that Jeanette had for her mother changes when she sees the her mother’s views are quite inflexibly conservative. How does this passage connect to other parts of the text (any part, within or beyond the first fifty pages)? This quote from the very first page set the context of what is yet to come. The mentality that Jeanette had grown accustomed to after the constant brainwashing she had received from her Church and local community changed as she matured. When Jeanette discovered her homosexuality, which fell into the gray area that her mother could not cope with, her mother quickly blacklisted it. Her mother refers to homosexuality as “unnatural passions” throughout the book as her standard of love is confined to her box mentality of a man and a woman.

The tension between Jeanette and her mother’s personality is essentially what drives the plot and what leads Jeanette to realize that sometimes it is okay to be uncertain in life. How does this passage connect to ideas, concepts, experiences, or writing beyond this text? Everyone puts a label on all new sources of information as it is in human nature, but there will always be situations or ideas that fall into middle ground. People must learn to cope with them. One cannot live life by looking through black and white lenses. Yet many people attempt to follow this viewpoint that it quite difficult to maintain, because life is simply complicated. Homosexuality is another topic that nowadays is embraced by most people and there are many families that probably struggle with the acceptance of their children’s sexuality.

Some, who allow this grey area to exist, do support their children, while others who refuse to acknowledge the existence of such a middle ground, only think that something is wrong with their children. For example, upon discovering Jeanette’s homosexuality, her mother immediately gave reason that she was possessed by a demon. She says to Jeanette, “ You’ll have to leave. I’m not havin’ demons here,”when Jeanette refuses to “repent” her so called sins of unnatural passions. When people are faced with strange situations, their coping mechanism has to do with throwing the blame on something else than actually dealing with the situation at hand.

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