Societal Expectations


“She recognised things according to expectation and environment. If you were in a particular place, you expected to see particular things” (Winterson, 45).

In this part of the passage, it is evident that the author repeats the words “expectation” in order to convey a deeper meaning about society. It is evident in the passage already that Jeanette is not what society “expects”. In this particular moment, she is turning in needlework which her teacher does not accept because it is against expectations. Needlework, from the perspective of a close-minded person bred through society, is supposed to be colorful, with a happy motto and done with the love of a woman. Jeanette puts her own perspective on things and is bashed because it is against what is “expected” at this moment. She specifically places this moment in the novel to criticize society’s narrow thinking in that just because someone is revealing them true selves because it is not within the guidelines of societal standards, it is somehow wrong. It is evident that this theme continues throughout the novel because as a Christian raised woman in a small town, Jeanette would be “expected” to spread the Christian faith and follow the rules along with her religion. As it turns out, Jeanette is completely opposite of the preplanned life set up for her since the beginning of her life. This may ultimately lead to feelings of shame and detachment from the world because society fails to consider the variety of personalities and characteristics people possess. There is no room for difference so when it is revealed, no one wants to accept it and learn from it.

4 thoughts on “Societal Expectations”

  1. I think in this part of the passage, the author is saying that society has expectations of people and those expectations are influenced by the environment you are in. I think this is interesting because the author is saying that there is no room for individuality. You are expected to do and act a certain way solely based on who you are surrounded by and what others are doing. I think that you are right about how this may effect Jeanette and that she may lose herself and feel very lost in a world full of expectations.

  2. After reading this post, I completely agree with the statements made. Society can be so judgmental if an individual isn’t recognized as “normal”. Even if that deviation from the norm is a different haircut or wearing an out of the ordinary pair of shoes. I don’t think society is inherently programed to think this way towards different people, I think it’s the collective attitudes we create and the standards we set that causes these very black and white expectations. While reading the text, I couldn’t believe how Jeannette was being treated after the teacher saw her “unacceptable” needle work. Every person is different so how can there be ONE ultimate standard for how we act? How we look? Who we love?

  3. I agree with this interpretation; I think that another point that strengthens the argument is how Winterson also repeats the word “particular”. Identifying that society is “expecting” a “particular” set of values, looks, and ideas helps readers see the contrast between what those are and how Jeanette is struggling to mold herself to fit within those boundaries. This idea is one that our class is particularly familiar with, we see it in most narratives or writings that we interpret. We have looked at the aspects that we believe create a coming out story, and this aspect of being different or being unable to change to fit into the mold of society is always a piece of that writing. It can be seen in each other the “It Gets Better” videos that we watched, where a person feels uncomfortable or cannot identify with the construction of societal ideals. Although, I think this makes sense because we have already classified Oranges are not the Only Fruit as a coming out story, so this is just one of the places we begin to see the familiar structure.

  4. I think this particular analysis of the word expectation is quite interesting. I too recognized the repetition of the word, however found a different meaning to it. I feel that the expectations of society may not lead to feelings of shame or detachment, but opens up the possibility for acceptance. Jeanette, stands out in respect to her peers and in relation to her mother. I would like to think this evokes the possibility that she is the exception to the expectation, a significant understanding in this novel. The text continuously uses the word expectation, giving it strength within the work. This repetition may lead to Jeannette finding her own strength in being the exception to the expectation, instead of facing feelings of shame and detachment.

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