A discussion board post for English 105, Introduction to Narrative, a freshman literature course taught by Gerry Canavan, written on 10 July 2006 at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro; the instructor read this post in class and cited it as a good example of "close reading"; hmm, maybe I'm onto something...
On the "Hallelujah Giant" in Jeanette Winterson's
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
by Matt Wallace
Of all the stories of faith and conversion that Jeanette's mother must have told her on their hilltop excursions, Jeanette's favorite is "the 'Hallelujah Giant', a freak of nature, eight feet tall shrunk to six foot three through the prayers of the faithful." The giant was reduced from his full glory and natural magnificence by "the prayers of the faithful." When confronted with the natural power and majesty of the giant, "the faithful" found it necessary to tear him down, to bring him closer to their level, to make him more "normal." "Hallelujah Giant" isn't Jeanette's favorite because she agrees with the premise of the story. She recognizes herself as the giant in the story, that is, as an exceptional person being constrained by the unreasonable demands of religion. In a single sentence, Winterson renders a metaphorical indictment of religion's power to limit an individual's self-actualization.