The Oranging of America Analysis

Max Apple

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Oranging of America” employs parody and caricature throughout. Apple caricatures an actual person in this story—Howard Johnson—but he satirizes more than the character of that one man. He directs his satire at the all-consuming materialism on which the United States has built its values. Apple subtly invites the reader to compare the spiritual quest of Huckleberry Finn—to define his own salvation—to the financial conquest that Howard and Millie are pursuing across the American landscape. Both Howard and Millie undergo spiritual epiphanies on their travels, but the genesis of those experiences comes from their gigantic wealth, though they view those visions as some kind of divine manifestation.

Apple also invites comparisons with other travel stories, such as Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (1957). “The Oranging of America” is the rugged individualist’s and consumerist’s “On the Road,” complete with spiritual visions in the middle of Iowa cornfields in which Howard Johnson falls into a kind of trance that leads him to the spot where he must erect the first air-conditioned motel in the United States. This brilliant story satirizes many of the entrepreneurial heroes who spent their lives modifying the face of the United States to reflect their own personal values and visions of what it should become.