Oranges Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The speaker is an adult man who is looking back on his first-ever date, when he was twelve years old. It is a first-person point-of-view.

Form and Meter

The poem is written in free verse; there is no set form or meter. There are 55 lines in the poem, and they are grouped into two stanzas. The first stanza consists of 42 lines and the second stanza consists of 13 lines.

Metaphors and Similes

There are two similes in the poem. In the first, the speaker compares the candies in the drugstore to bleachers: "I turned to the candies / Tiered like bleachers" (25-6). This simile offers us a visual description of what the candies look like. It also evokes the speaker's young age, as children sit in bleachers during school events or sports games.

The second simile compares the fog outside to clothing: "Fog hanging like old / Coats between the trees" (44-5). In this simile, the speaker describes how thick the fog is by comparing it to "old coats" which are presumably dense and heavy. This simile therefore gives us a clear evocation of the winter scene outside and shows how overwhelming it is for the speaker and the girl.

Alliteration and Assonance

We first see alliteration early in the poem, as the boy makes his way towards the girl's house. First, we see a heavy repetition of "w" sounds in the first lines of the poem: "The first time I walked / With a girl, I was twelve, / Cold, and weighted down / With two oranges in my jacket." The "w" sounds in these lines push the story of the poem further and bring a steady rhythm to the opening of the poem. In a sense, the procession of "w" sounds enacts the even steps of the boy as he walks towards the girl's house.

A few lines later, there is a repetition of "b" sounds (another example of alliteration), which, like the "w" sounds, evoke the boy's steps as he walks: "Beneath my steps, my breath / Before me, then gone" (6-7). There is a steady iambic rhythm in the first line of this passage that sounds like footfalls.

The alliteration of "w" and "b" sounds continue throughout the poem. See, for example, the following lines: "As I walked toward / Her house, the one whose / Porch light burned yellow / Night and day, in any weather" (8-11) and "breathing / before a drugstore" (20-1).



Lyric Poetry


December, city streets, and a drugstore


Conversational, retrospective

Protagonist and Antagonist

Major Conflict

Awkwardness vs genuine connection
Cold vs Warmth


The narrative of the poem reaches its climax when the girl takes the speaker's cue and picks out a chocolate bar at the drugstore. At this moment, the tension builds as a result of the reader's uncertainty, as we know that the speaker can't afford the chocolate bar. At this moment, the sentences become longer, creating more rhythm in the lines as they build towards the climax: "I fingered / A nickel in my pocket, / And when she lifted a chocolate / That cost a dime, / I didn't say anything. / I took the nickel from / My pocket, then an orange, / And set them quietly on / the counter. When I looked up, / The lady's eyes met mine, / And held them, knowing / Very well what it was all / About" (30-42). In these lines, the sentences are long, but they are clipped by commas, creating a rhythmic effect. The final line of Stanza I is just a single word: "About." This is the apex of the climax. We shift towards the resolution of the poem after the stanza break, where we discover that the saleslady took the speaker's deal.




Metonymy and Synecdoche

Synecdoche occurs when the speaker refers to his love interest as simply "girl." Here he is using a part of her character (her gender) to represent her entire character. This same process happens when the speaker refers to the lady at the drugstore as simply "saleslady." Here, her occupation stands for her entire character.



The speaker uses hyperbole to emphasize the brightness of the orange against the cold winter day: "I peeled my orange / That was so bright against / The gray of December / That, from a distance, / Someone might have thought / I was making a fire in my hands" (50-5).


"Frost cracking" (5) and "cars hissing" (43) are both examples of onomatopoeia.