Honors English 9
18 January 2001
Imagine that it's winter and cold outside. There's nervous electricity around you, and love is a new and exciting experience. In your heart you feel warmth you've never known before. This is the moment Gary Soto captures in his poem “Oranges”. The feeling and power of adolescent love is created using tone, contrasting imagery, and symbolism.
First, the use of tone in “Oranges” clearly helps to set the theme of the poem. Children often talk with simple sentences that directly state what happened. The speaker’s choice of words and raw simplicity in the way he tells his story illustrates his youth and the honesty that comes with it. Everything he says, such as “The first time I walked with a girl, I was twelve”, is straightforward and simple, much like childhood love. Children tend to have more pure and simple feelings for one another than adults because their lives are simple and uncomplicated. The tone of the speaker helps the reader comprehend those simple feelings of adolescent love.
For his next technique, Gary Soto uses contrasting imagery to portray the feeling of adolescent love. Within the first seven lines of the poem the narrator tells you that it is a cold, gray December day. The first time the oranges are introduced, the narrator simply tells you that he is “Weighed down with two oranges in my jacket". The bright image and color of the oranges immediately begins to infuse light, happiness, and love into the scene by contrasting with the cold, frosty December atmosphere. The oranges have the ability to do this because of a connotative connection with the bright color of the oranges and light. Later, the narrator notices that the girl’s porch light is always on despite the weather or the time of day. This image again brings up light that in turn reflects back to the brightness of the oranges. Then the girl appears, “Pulling at her gloves, face bright with rouge". The bright rouge color in her face links her with the oranges and their light, as well. Every image that includes light adds to the growing feeling of love and warmth within the dreary surroundings, because love and warmth are most often associated with light and happiness. This everlasting light reappears again and again throughout the poem shown through light in the girl’s eyes, her smile, and the way the orange looks like fire in the boy’s hands. Every contrasting image of light is linked to another and continuously intensifies the growing feeling of young love and happiness.
Lastly, Gary Soto uses symbolism to show the strength of youthful love. He writes, "Cold, and weighed down with two oranges in my jacket". The oranges weighting down the narrators jacket symbolize the way his love for the girl is weighing upon him. This weight is created from the strong feelings he has for the girl and his hopes that she likes him too. As the couple walks down the street, they encounter a line of "newly planted trees". The trees symbolize something new and young that will grow in the future, much like the love between the boy and the girl. Later, the narrator tells us, “We entered, the tiny bell bringing a saleslady down a narrow aisle of goods”. The tiny bell and the aisle exemplify a wedding that immediately connects to love between the boy and the girl. The poem ends by saying, “I peeled my orange that was so bright against the gray of December that, from a distance, someone might have thought I was making a fire in my hands”. The narrator used fire to show the intensity of the young couples love through extreme brightness and warmth. The symbolism in Gary Soto's poem “Oranges” conveys how powerful adolescent love can be.
The entire poem is just a narration about walking with a girl, yet through the use of tone, contrasting imagery, and symbolism, Gary Soto has captured the power and emotion of young love. Oranges just represent what that young love feeds off of: warmth, love, and understanding.