Exploring the Symbolism of Oranges: What Does the Orange Symbolize in Oranges by Gary Soto?

Have you ever wondered what the orange symbolizes in Gary Soto’s short story “Oranges”? This coming-of-age tale depicts a young boy’s journey through his first date and the hurdles he faces along the way. But what significance does the orange hold in this heartwarming story?

Soto’s use of symbolism is masterful, and his choice to include oranges is no exception. Through the narrative, we see the orange as a representation of purity, sweetness, and the innocence of childhood. As our protagonist embarks on his journey with the girl he likes, the orange serves as a reminder of the simpler times when life’s complexities had yet to surface.

As we take a closer look at the symbolism of the orange in “Oranges,” it’s clear that Soto’s use of this fruit goes beyond its surface-level sweetness. With each peel and each segment, we see the way the orange helps our protagonist find his way through an unfamiliar situation. Through his experience with the orange, we see the themes of hope and perseverance shine through, ultimately leading to a heartwarming conclusion.

Symbolism in Literature

Symbolism is a literary device that refers to the use of symbols to represent a concept or an idea. The concept or idea could be an object, a person, a situation, or an action. Symbolism is a powerful tool for writers because it not only enhances the depth and richness of their work, but it also allows them to convey complex and abstract ideas in a simple and coherent manner.

In literature, symbols are used to add meaning and significance to the story, and to help the reader understand the characters, their motivations, and their emotions. One of the most famous examples of symbolism in literature is the use of the green light in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which symbolizes the hope and longing of the main character, Jay Gatsby, for his lost love, Daisy Buchanan.

In Gary Soto’s short story “Oranges,” the orange is used as a powerful symbol that represents different ideas and concepts. The orange symbolizes innocence, love, and hope.

Color Symbolism

In “Oranges” by Gary Soto, the color orange symbolizes various emotions and ideas that contribute to the overall theme of the poem. The color orange can represent a range of emotions such as warmth, happiness, and excitement. It can also symbolize creativity, self-expression, and a zest for life.

  • The warmth of the color orange is used to convey the tender and emotional aspects of the narrator’s relationship with his partner. The warmth of the color can be seen in phrases such as “the cold outside / crisp and bright” juxtaposed with the “jacket / of the girl I loved” that was “soft and warm”
  • The happiness and excitement that the color orange represents can be seen as the narrator experiences a newfound exhilaration during his walk with his partner. The oranges that the narrator purchases symbolize this excitement and happiness as the narrator shares them with his partner in order to uplift her spirits and to add to the already joyous atmosphere.
  • The color orange can also signify creativity and self-expression, which are shown when the narrator takes a risk in expressing his affection for his partner in meaningful ways such as holding her hand. This expresses another type of zest for life and creativity, which are also manifested in the narrator’s willingness to step outside his comfort zone and take a risk.

Imagery and Metaphor

The use of imagery and metaphor in “Oranges” helps to convey the deeper meanings of the poem. Throughout the poem, there are numerous examples of imagery and metaphor that help to illustrate the emotions that the narrator is feeling. The metaphor of the “bubble” that encloses the narrator and his partner differentiates this moment in time from any other, thereby setting it apart as something special. The imagery of the polished, juicy oranges emphasizes the abundance of the moment and enhances the vivacity of their experience.

Rhythm and Rhyme

The rhythm and rhyme of “Oranges” contribute to the overall musicality of the poem. The short, three-line stanzas in which the poem is written mimic the steady cadence of walking and create a sense of forward momentum. The use of enjambment also creates a sense of fluidity and continuous movement, mirroring the narrator’s and his partner’s journey together. The ABAB rhyme scheme ties the poem together and emphasizes the themes of unity and togetherness that the poem expresses.

Tone and Theme

The tone and theme of “Oranges” are integral to the overall meaning of the poem. The tone is warm, tender, and joyful. These characteristics set the stage for such themes as the beauty of young love and the power of small acts of kindness. The theme of the poem is centered on the idea of taking risks for love and experiencing the magic that can occur as a result.

warmyoung love
tendersmall acts of kindness
joyfulrisk for love

The tone and theme of “Oranges” work together to create a sense of nostalgia and yearning for a simpler, more innocent time when love was fresh and full of wonder.

Gary Soto as a Writer

Gary Soto is a prolific writer whose literary works span over four decades. He has written over twenty-five books, including poetry, novels, memoirs, and children’s literature. Soto is a master of storytelling, and his works are characterized by his vivid descriptions of life in the Chicano barrios of California.

The Symbolism of Orange in “Oranges” by Gary Soto

  • The orange symbolizes innocence and purity.
  • The color orange is associated with warmth and the sun, which represents hope and optimism.
  • The act of sharing the orange shows the kindness and generosity of the protagonist towards his girlfriend, and it also symbolizes the sharing of intimacy and affection.

The Themes of Gary Soto’s Literary Works

Gary Soto’s literary works often explore the themes of identity, race, class, and the immigrant experience. He writes about real-life situations that Mexican-American families face, such as poverty, discrimination, and cultural assimilation.

Soto’s writings also deal with coming-of-age experiences and the struggles that young people face as they navigate their way through adolescence. He portrays the complex relationships between children and their parents, the challenges of growing up in a multicultural environment, and the search for personal identity.

The Writing Style of Gary Soto

Gary Soto’s writing style is simple, yet powerful. He employs vivid imagery, sensory details, and a conversational tone that makes his writing accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds. Soto’s use of everyday language and his ability to tell stories that resonate with readers on a deep emotional level are what make him a compelling writer.

Writing Style:Examples:
Descriptive Language“The oranges were two perfect globes, bright orange, and sweet as candy.”
Symbolism“I peeled my orange that was so bright against the gray of December.”
Real-life Situations“The old man was bent into a horseshoe
And waved at us cheerfully.
His smile, a wink to the boys,
Was all he had to give.”

Overall, Gary Soto’s writing is a reflection of his own life experiences and the experiences of others in his community. His ability to tell honest and authentic stories has earned him a place in the canon of contemporary literature.

Literary Analysis of “Oranges”

Gary Soto’s “Oranges” is a simple yet powerful poem that explores themes of love, innocence, and self-discovery through the eyes of a young adolescent boy on a date with a girl. The use of imagery, symbolism, and metaphor are prominent throughout the poem, but one of the most significant symbols is the orange itself. Let’s take a closer look at what the orange symbolizes in “Oranges.”

  • Hope and Optimism: The orange is most commonly associated with its bright, citrusy color and sweet taste, which both represent hope and optimism for the future. In the context of the poem, the boy’s gift of two oranges to the girl symbolizes his hope for a positive and fruitful outcome to their date.
  • Innocence: Oranges are often seen as a symbol of purity and innocence because of their bright, untainted color and the fact that they grow untouched by human hands. In “Oranges,” the boy is innocent in his intentions and desires for the girl, making his gift of oranges even more fitting.
  • Sensuality: While oranges are often associated with innocence, they can also represent sensuality and sexual desire. The scent of oranges is said to be a natural aphrodisiac, which adds a layer of eroticism to the boy’s gift. Throughout the poem, the boy’s shy and hesitant actions towards the girl suggest a desire for physical intimacy.
  • Self-discovery: Lastly, oranges symbolize self-discovery and self-awareness in “Oranges.” As the boy navigates his way through his first date and encounters obstacles along the way, he gains a deeper understanding of himself and his emotions. The oranges serve as a reminder of the boy’s growth and newfound self-awareness at the end of the poem.

Through the use of oranges as a symbol, Soto has effectively conveyed multiple themes and emotions in “Oranges.” The brightness and sweetness of the fruit represent hope and innocence, while its sensual qualities add an element of desire and eroticism to the poem. The use of oranges also highlights the boy’s journey of self-discovery and emotional growth.

Orange Color and TasteHope and Optimism
Untouched by Human HandsInnocence
Orange ScentSensuality
Fruit as a WholeSelf-discovery

Overall, the use of oranges in “Oranges” adds depth and richness to the poem’s themes and emotions. The symbolism of the fruit is woven seamlessly into the narrative, making it a standout element of Soto’s writing.

Themes in “Oranges” by Gary Soto

The Symbolism of the Color Orange

Gary Soto’s “Oranges” is rich with symbolism, particularly in its use of the color orange. Throughout the poem, the color is used to represent a myriad of themes, including:

  • Hopefulness
  • New beginnings
  • Warmth and comfort
  • Innocence and purity
  • Gratitude and generosity

By presenting the color in different contexts, Soto creates a complex web of meaning that underscores the poem’s central themes of love and self-discovery.

Exploring the Theme of Generosity

One of the most prominent themes in “Oranges” is that of generosity. Throughout the poem, the speaker goes out of his way to make his love interest feel comfortable and cared for. He buys her a bag of candy, insists on paying for her purchases, and goes for a walk with her in the cold weather despite his own discomfort. These acts of kindness underscore the deep affection the speaker feels for the girl and symbolize the importance of a giving heart in any relationship.

The Importance of Self-Discovery

“Oranges” also highlights the theme of self-discovery, as the speaker reflects on his own feelings and experiences throughout the course of the poem. He describes feeling nervous and uncertain at the beginning of the evening but ultimately gains a newfound sense of confidence and self-assurance. This journey of personal growth is integral to the speaker’s ability to connect with his love interest and reflects the importance of self-reflection and introspection in building strong relationships.

Examining the Structure of the Poem

In addition to its underlying themes, “Oranges” also features a unique structure that helps to emphasize its central message. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which represents a different stage in the speaker’s journey. The first stanza introduces the love interest and sets the scene, the second begins to explore the speaker’s emotions, and the final stanza offers a resolution and sense of closure. This carefully crafted structure underscores the idea that personal growth and transformation often occur in stages and emphasizes the importance of taking things one step at a time.

FirstHopefulness, Generosity, Warmth
SecondSelf-discovery, Uncertainty, Nervousness
ThirdConfidence, Transformation, Closure

The themes explored in “Oranges” are universal and relatable, making the poem a timeless classic. Through its use of symbolism, structure, and nuanced characterization, the poem captures the essence of what it means to be human and the power of love to inspire growth and change.

Narrative structure in “Oranges”

In his short story “Oranges,” Gary Soto masterfully utilizes the narrative structure to convey the theme of young love and innocence. Each section of the story serves a specific purpose in developing the plot, characters, and setting.

  • The exposition: Soto sets the scene by describing the chilly December day and the protagonist’s trip to the drugstore. He also introduces the love interest, establishing the central conflict.
  • The rising action: The protagonist purchases the oranges and embarks on a journey to meet the girl. Along the way, he faces obstacles and anxieties that gradually build tension until the climax.
  • The climax: The protagonist gives the girl the oranges, and their hands touch for the first time. This moment marks the pinnacle of the story’s emotional intensity and is a turning point for both characters.
  • The falling action: After the climax, Soto allows the tension to dissipate as the protagonist walks the girl home. He describes the peaceful scenery and the couple’s light interaction. This section gives readers a chance to reflect on the story’s main theme and the characters’ growth.
  • The resolution: The story concludes with the protagonist returning home, feeling content and matured. Soto reinforces the story’s central theme by showing the transformation of the protagonist’s outlook on life and love.
  • Symbols and motifs: Throughout the story, Soto uses oranges as a symbol of hope and young love. The number six also recurs frequently, representing the protagonist’s age, the six blocks he travels to see the girl, and the six oranges he buys. This motif reinforces the story’s theme of innocence and youth.

Soto’s use of the narrative structure allows him to create a cohesive and memorable story. The structure sets up the story’s conflicts and resolutions, and the symbols and motifs add depth and metaphorical meaning.

The expositionIntroduces characters and setting, establishes conflict
The rising actionBuilds tension and develops characters
The climaxResolves the central conflict and marks a turning point
The falling actionAllows readers to reflect and ties up loose ends
The resolutionShows the characters’ growth and reinforces the theme
Symbols and motifsAdd depth and meaning to the story

In conclusion, Gary Soto’s “Oranges” uses the narrative structure to convey a powerful message about young love and innocence. The story’s sections work together to create a cohesive and memorable tale that resonates with readers. By incorporating symbols and motifs, Soto adds metaphorical layers that elevate the story to a poignant coming-of-age tale.

Description in “Oranges”

“Oranges” by Gary Soto is a short story that depicts a young boy’s first date. Throughout the story, there are various symbols that help to highlight the themes of the story. One such symbol is the orange. In “Oranges,” the orange represents love, hope, and innocence, and it is used to convey the emotions and experiences of the characters. Let’s delve deeper into what the orange symbolizes in the story and explore how Soto uses this imagery to create a powerful narrative.

The Number 7

The number 7 is an important symbol in the story. The boy purchases two oranges from a store, counting his coins and realizing that he has exactly 15 cents. This means he can afford “two oranges for a nickel” each. There are several ways the number 7 is represented in this story.

  • The boy has seven nickels in his pocket, which means he has enough money to buy two oranges.
  • The number 7 is a Biblical and mystical number that is often associated with perfection or completeness.
  • Seven is also the number of days in a week, emphasizing the idea of new beginnings.

By using the number 7, Soto emphasizes the idea of perfection and completeness within the context of the boy’s experience. The boy is nervous about his date, but he feels a sense of completion or resolution in his ability to purchase the oranges and give them to his girlfriend. This symbol also represents the idea of new beginnings and a fresh start. The boy is experiencing a new phase in his life, and the orange represents the hope and possibility of a positive outcome.


Overall, the orange and the number 7 are both essential symbols in “Oranges” by Gary Soto. They help to convey the emotions and experiences of the characters and contribute to the overall impact of the story. Soto’s use of imagery and symbolism is masterful, and it allows readers to connect with the characters and understand the themes of the story in a deeper way.

Imagery in “Oranges”: What Does the Orange Symbolize?

In Gary Soto’s “Oranges,” the symbol of the orange is used repeatedly to create a vivid sensory experience for the reader. As the narrator walks with his crush through the winter landscape, the image of the orange takes on various meanings that add layers of complexity to the story. One recurring motif is the number 8, which appears prominently in the poem.

The Number 8

  • Throughout the poem, the narrator mentions that he has “a nickel and a dime” in his pocket, which adds up to 15 cents. When they buy the oranges, the total cost is 5 cents, leaving 10 cents left over.
  • The 10 cents could be interpreted as two nickels, or two circles that resemble the number 8.
  • Additionally, the oranges are described as being “like lit-up hearts,” which could be seen as resembling the figure 8.

The Significance of the Number 8

The use of the number 8 in “Oranges” is not a coincidence. In numerology, the number 8 is often associated with abundance, wealth, and good fortune. This reinforces the idea that the orange is a symbol of hope and possibility, as the narrator is going on a date for the first time. The fact that they have extra money left over after buying the oranges could be seen as a sign of prosperity to come.

This interpretation is further supported by the fact that the oranges are described as “a bright fire in my hands.” Fire is often associated with energy and passion, which could symbolize the potential for a passionate relationship with the narrator’s crush.

The Use of Imagery

The use of imagery in “Oranges” is masterful, as Soto is able to create a sensory experience for the reader that helps to reinforce the themes of the poem. By using the orange as a symbol of hope and possibility, he is able to evoke feelings of warmth and happiness in the reader, even in the midst of a cold and gloomy winter landscape.

OrangeHope and possibility
Nickel and dimeScarcity and abundance
Number 8Wealth and good fortune
Bright fireEnergy and passion

Overall, the use of imagery in “Oranges” helps to create a rich and nuanced portrait of a young boy’s first date. Through the use of the orange as a symbol and the number 8 as a recurring motif, Soto is able to convey themes of hope, possibility, and prosperity.

Mood and Tone in “Oranges”

Gary Soto’s “Oranges” tells the story of a young boy’s first date with a girl. Throughout the poem, Soto uses various literary devices to convey a specific mood and tone. Here, we’ll explore how the number 9 in the poem contributes to the mood and tone.

The number 9 is mentioned in the poem when the boy buys his date a “bag of candy” that cost “a nickel” and “had 9 chops to it.” The number 9 holds significance in numerology as it represents completion and fulfillment. Additionally, in Christianity, the number 9 represents the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Therefore, the inclusion of the number 9 in “Oranges” can be interpreted as a foreshadowing of a fulfilling and fruitful experience.

  • Furthermore, the use of the number 9 also adds to the nostalgic and romantic tone of the poem. Soto reflects on a time when a simple bag of candy with 9 pieces was enough to make his heart skip a beat and make him feel like he was on top of the world. The mention of the number 9 highlights not only the innocence of youth but also the simplicity and beauty of first love.
  • The repetition of the number 9 also creates a sense of rhythm and symmetry in the poem. The first stanza mentions the color orange 3 times, and the second stanza mentions the number 9 3 times. This creates a sense of balance and forethought, which adds to the overall mood of the poem.
  • Lastly, the use of the number 9 can be seen as a deliberate contrast to the rest of the poem. While the boy experiences joy and fulfillment in buying the candy with 9 chops, the rest of the poem is filled with uncertainty and trepidation as the boy navigates his first date. This contrast heightens the emotions in the poem and adds depth to the underlying themes of growth and self-discovery.

In conclusion, the number 9 in Gary Soto’s “Oranges” serves as a crucial element in conveying the overall mood and tone. It adds a layer of symbolism, rhythm, and contrast that highlights the deeper themes of the poem. By examining the role of the number 9 in the poem, we can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the power of literary devices in shaping our interpretations of literature.

Literary devices in “Oranges”: The Symbolism of Number 10

In Gary Soto’s “Oranges,” number 10 is a significant literary device that symbolizes the speaker’s transition from childhood to adolescence and his desire to impress his love interest.

The number 10 is first mentioned when the speaker picks out ten oranges at the grocery store as a gift for the girl he is about to meet. This number serves as a metaphor for the speaker’s aspirations to achieve a perfect score in the game of love.

Furthermore, the speaker’s journey to meet the girl takes him through ten blocks, which represents his journey from childhood to adolescence. As he walks, he becomes more aware of his surroundings and the emotions that come with being in love.

  • The number 10 serves as a metaphor for the speaker’s aspirations for a perfect score in love.
  • Ten blocks represent the speaker’s journey from childhood to adolescence.

Moreover, the girl’s house is located on 10th street, reinforcing the symbolism of the number. The speaker’s nervousness and desire to impress the girl are highlighted by his decision to spend all of his money on the oranges, leaving him with only 10 cents in his pocket.

The number 10 is also used as a structural device, with the poem consisting of ten stanzas that follow a strict ABCB rhyme scheme. This controlled structure reflects the speaker’s attempt to regulate his emotions in the face of his first love.

Symbolism of Number 10 in “Oranges” by Gary Soto
Represents the speaker’s transition from childhood to adolescence
Metaphor for the speaker’s aspirations for a perfect score in love
Structural device with ten stanzas, reflecting the speaker’s attempt to regulate his emotions

In conclusion, the use of number 10 as a literary device in “Oranges” reinforces the themes of adolescence, love, and the speaker’s desire for perfection.

FAQs about What Does the Orange Symbolize in Oranges by Gary Soto

1. What is the significance of the orange in “Oranges” by Gary Soto?

In “Oranges,” the orange symbolizes a small gesture of kindness and love, as the main character buys an orange for his new girlfriend.

2. What does the orange’s smell represent in the poem?

The smell of the orange represents the sensory experience of falling in love, as it is sweet and intoxicating.

3. Why does the main character choose to buy an orange?

The main character buys an orange to show his new girlfriend that he cares about her and wants to make her happy.

4. What does the orange peel symbolize in the poem?

The orange peel symbolizes the potential for bitterness in life, as even the sweetest experiences can have a bitter aftertaste.

5. How does the orange represent innocence in the poem?

The innocence of the main character is highlighted by his desire to buy the orange for his girlfriend, as he wants to show her that he is a caring and thoughtful person.

6. What is the significance of the orange’s color in the poem?

The bright and vibrant orange color of the fruit represents the warmth and passion of the main character’s feelings for his girlfriend.

7. What lesson can be learned from the orange symbol in “Oranges”?

The orange symbol in “Oranges” teaches us that small acts of kindness and love can have a big impact on the people we care about, and that even the smallest things can hold great significance.

A Closing Note

Thank you for taking the time to explore the symbolism of the orange in “Oranges” by Gary Soto. This poem reminds us of the beauty and complexity of human relationships, and how even the smallest gestures can hold great meaning. We hope this article has provided some insight into the deeper themes of the poem, and we encourage you to come back and explore more literary analysis in the future.