Gary Soto speaks to the romantic side of all of us with his poem “Oranges.” In the poem, Soto uses the innocence and simplicity of first love, combined with symbolism and imagery of colors and light to evoke the feelings we all had on our first date. While the poem reads simply as words about a walk with a girl, the use of light and color build into a reflection on the feelings and emotions associated with young love.
“Oranges” is written in the past tense, as the speaker examines in the first-person how he or she remembers the first time he or she “walked/With a girl.” Soto uses syntax, in the form of fragmented and run-on sentences as scattered, incomplete and rambling thoughts, to conjure the emotions of simple, childish love we feel before we all inevitably lose our innocence. The straightforward, direct and uncomplicated tone gives the poem the innocence of a child in love and the feel like that child is telling the story.
As the poem develops from something about a walk in the cold to a story of first love, Soto uses the “line/Of newly planted trees” as a perfect metaphor for the blossoming relationship of the two children as they walk together on their first date: the trees have not developed yet and neither have the children, but they both will soon. Soto seems to be getting ahead of himself a bit with the wedding metaphor, when the “tiny bell” rings and someone walks down the “narrow aisle.” Soto’s use of color in the poem works well as another symbol for the growing warmth of love against the winter cold. Even though the poem takes place during what begins as a frosty December morning, the feeling quickly dissipates as the speakers’ crush is introduced. The girl (who is never given a name, which helps the reader easily compare her to their own first love) has a porch light that burns yellow, symbolizing the warmth she provides the speaker and the flicker of love that is ignited as the two young children meet for their winter walk. The...
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