What Is the Theme of “Oranges” by Gary Soto?

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The themes present in the poem “Oranges” by Gary Soto include love, maturation and poverty. The poem is an account of a first date between a young boy and girl. Although Soto never explicitly uses the word “love” to describe the relationship between the young couple, the emotion saturates the poem.

The theme of love is implied in the way that the boy notices and describes all of the small details about the girl, such as “her face bright with rouge” and “light in her eyes, a smile starting at the corners of her mouth.” That feeling is reinforced when the boy states, “I took my girl’s hand.”

The theme of maturation appears throughout the poem, such as when the boy offers to buy the girl any candy she wants, and he smartly offers an orange and a nickel as payment for it. He also shows initiative by taking her hand.

Soto is known for examining the effects of poverty in his poetry. In “Oranges,” that theme is symbolized by the boy’s inability to pay for the candy. However, his poverty is overcome with kindness and love when the store clerk accepts the orange as payment for the candy. The clerk recognizes that the boy is trying to do something nice for her and honors that effort.