What does the orange symbolize in "Oranges" by Gary Soto?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator recalls his first date with a girl when he is twelve years old. He is carrying two oranges in his jacket when he picks her up and walks with her to a local drugstore. When the girl picks out a piece of chocolate worth a dime, he gives the saleslady a nickel and his orange. Outside, she unwraps her chocolate while he peels his orange. The narrator mentions that the brightness of his orange must have seemed like he was holding a fire in his hands.

The oranges symbolically represent the purity and sweetness of love as well as the boy's latent spirit. The speaker initially carries the oranges to share with the girl as a gesture of his love. However, the oranges are hidden within his jacket and protected from the external elements. They symbolize his generous, sensitive spirit that he must protect. When the speaker barters his orange for a piece of chocolate, the saleslady recognizes the situation and generously trades with him. Figuratively, the orange represents the love that the saleslady shares with the speaker by bartering with him. This love is not confined only to the speaker but represents the love from others who show sympathy and compassion. At the end of the poem, the orange is associated with fire. This association represents the warmth that love offers which corresponds to the oranges' symbolic nature.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The orange symbolizes young love.

The speaker acknowledges the presence of the oranges when he first walked with a girl.  He projects his emotions onto him.  They become symbolic of the innocent, young love he has for her.

The first time I walked

With a girl, I was twelve,

Cold, and weighted down

With two oranges in my jacket

For the speaker, a dime is a lot of money.  He clearly has the two oranges for them, but the girl wants chocolate.  Since he only has a nickel, he uses the orange.  He uses the orange to pay for the candy the girl wants, and the woman in the store lets him.  She acknowledges that she knows “what it was all about.”  The orange allows him to make the girl happy.  It allows him to have his special moment.

I took my girl’s hand

In mine for two blocks,

Then released it to let

Her unwrap the chocolate.

Young love is innocent, inexperienced, simple, and pure.  The incident with walking together, holding hands, unwrapping a candy, and eating an orange demonstrates this.  Soto captures a simple incident from a simple time with deep emotional connections.

sunset35 | Student

Can be the first young love, is the most powerful feeling or emotion that the human can feel about it.

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