This week, I SOAPSTone a piece I read in English class called “The Night of Oranges”, by Flavius Stan, which was published in the New York Times December 24, 1995, when Stan was only seventeen years old. That was impressive to me because that’s not too far off from how old I am right now and it goes to show that age is no barrier if you’re motivated to do something.
The subject of this piece really caught my eye: this piece was published on Christmas Eve day and the story is set on Christmas Day; however, the Christmas Day that the author recalls is not a recent one, but one six years ago, 1989, in Timisoara, Romania. The author talks a little about the revolution that had just ended and how he was going out with friends to watch a movie, until he decides to ditch them to go wait in line for oranges.
While reading this piece, my teacher told me to “read like a writer”; that is, to pick up on techniques that the writer uses to join the way he writes with his subject matter, or as my teacher put it ” marry the what and the how”. A specific example of this was the author’s comparison between lines now and lines before the revolution, “We were used to such lines under the former Communist Government-lines for bread, lines for meat, lines for everything. . . But this line was different.” The author’s use of a dash, which is essentially a line, brings emphasis to his subject matter, lines. He also has a long description of types of lines he has had to wait in, stretching the sentence “line” and emphasizing lines by repeating the word over and over again. The line, “But this line was different,” is a short, simple sentence; the form contrasts that of the previous sentence on lines, emphasizing how the line for the oranges was different.
One particular line that I liked was “I am drunk with the idea of oranges.” The author mentions oranges frequently throughout the whole paragraph, sometimes jumping from a seemingly unrelated comparison of life before and after the revolution to a thought on oranges, as if he was truly distracted and “drunk with the idea of oranges”. The color orange contrasts sharply with the gray that the author describes in the first paragraph, ” [talking about him and his friends] Our cold hands are gray like the sky above us.” The comparison with grey to orange mimicks that of life before and after the revolution; the orange seems to indicate that life is getting better, that life is slowly progressing from the colorless drab grey of old times to new heights signified by orange.
As to finding a purpose behind this piece, I’m not really sure what to say, but I think that the holiday spirit, that we should be thankful for what we have, jumps out to me in this story. It can be easy to get swept up in the “check list” for a perfect holiday season: buying gifts, hanging lights, etc, but this piece reminds us that without family, our check list is never complete, no matter how many tasks we had accomplished. The author expresses his intention for buying the oranges that he sees, saying “. . . I want to do something important: I want to give my brother a surprise. . . I also want my parents to be proud of me.” I see oranges and don’t give them a second glance, but Stan was so captivated by the sight of oranges and commented on how weird it was to see oranges, that it was a sign that life was now different than before. Oranges were so rare in Romania at the time that he decided to wait six hours for them and uses the money that he had to buy movie tickets to buy the oranges.
This SOAPSTone was a bit choppy and jumped around a lot, but I wanted to get all my thoughts on “The Night of Oranges” down. I’m still working on how I want to do these SOAPSTone posts, but I guess I’ll just let myself type and see what happens.