“A Bag of Oranges” Spiro Athanas Essay
“A Bag of Oranges” Spiro Athanas
In “A Bag of Oranges”, Spiro Athanas describes a young boy who grows into his father\’s shadow in a matter of hours. That young boy is Nikos Pappanoulos. Although Nikos was born into a poor family who so happened to live in the slums, he was like any other 10-year-old boy who had his head in the clouds and was always ready for the next adventure. But Nikos was also very different. Nikos was very intuitive, he was always aware of his surroundings and often knew why things in his life happened the way they did. Even though his own father intimidated him, he admired his father Stavro. Nikos watched every move Stavro made while listening to every word that spilled out of his mouth. But what Nikos didn’t know was that his father\’s actions would determine the way Nikos becomes an adult at only 10 years old.
Like every Saturday morning, Nikos and his father went to the city market to get fresh fruits and groceries. To Nikos “The market was like a magic farm indomitably growing and prospering in the heart of the rotting slum. (Page 126, para. 2)” Nikos father goes to buy two boxes of strawberries, and tries to bargain with the “gaunt, hook-nosed” farmer so he can purchase two boxes of strawberries for 20 cents, but the farmer makes it clear that two boxes cost 30 cents. After bargaining back and forth, Stavro was able to convince the farmer to let the strawberries go for 25 cents. Stavro wasn’t so happy and says “sonofabitch”, but he took it anyway because he knew that’s as low as the farmer will go. The story states “The boy watched and listened to this dialogue, intrigued and a little frightened. But the smile on his father\’s lips as they walked away reassured him. (Pg 217, para. 14)” Nikos watched and listened to every word exchanged between his father and the farmer. Nikos doesn’t quite understand the conversation, but he was very curious to know what those words meant and why his father and the farmer acted the way they did. But Nikos was also frightened by the way his father got “robbed” for those strawberries. However, as they were walking away Stavro flashed a smile and Nikos was able to relax. This means that Nikos listens very attentively. Even though he tries to make sense of the situation, he lets his emotions take over and he’s scared because in his mind he feels like he just witnessed something he wasn’t supposed too. Nikos starts to relax when his father smiles at him. He feels safe all over again and that smile made it seem like nothing has happened. This goes to show that he’s still a child and that he will base his emotions on his father’s actions.
After the market, Stavro decided to visit his brother’s coffee shop like he does every week. Nikos sat down while Stavros drank what could be described as “dark, viscous coffee”. Nikos was quiet and he kept trying to listen to what the grown men around him were saying, but they were speaking in low voices for the sake of Nikos. Stavro’s brother Peter, and the other men sitting at the table gossiped about a woman named Aphrodite and how her partner Michael wasn’t “man enough” for her. Peter nudged Stavros’ arm and hinted that “No one is enough man for Aphrodite”. Stavro smiled sarcastically and complained how the men were “gossiping old ladies”. The story states “The boy enjoyed the talk and sometimes felt he was being allowed to hear all the secrets of the world and was only mildly frustrated by the mysteries he could not understand. (Page 218, para. 21)” This means that Nikos felt like a man when he was sitting at the same table with all the adults. He considered it a great opportunity to listen to adult conversations and jokes. He felt as if these conversations were showing him what it’s like to be a real man. But of course, Nikos is still growing and trying to understand his own life. He felt disappointed in the fact that he didn’t understand the conversation, therefore it had no real meaning to him.
Stavro and Nikos left the coffee shop and made their way towards the bus stop. There was very little space on the bus, but Nikos sat next to his father all the way in the back of the bus. Nikos was holding the bag of oranges very lightly. So when the bus came to a hard stop, a few oranges rolled out of the bag and rolled down the aisle. Stavro went after the oranges as quickly as he could until he noticed a young man picked up his orange. Stavro was angry and wrapped his hand around the man\’s wrist and didn’t let go. Eventually, the man started to feel the pain, surrendered the orange, and he quickly reassured Stavro that he wasn’t about to steal his “precious orange”. The rest of the passengers began to laugh and Nikos felt embarrassed. After all the oranges were put away, Nikos and his father had to pass the man to get off the bus. While they were walking out, Nikos felt everyone\’s eyes on him, he heard every whisper, and he noticed every smile. The story states “He felt the shadow and weight of his father behind him, placid and unashamed. Oh, how he hated him and his smug, foreign stupidity! Why did he have to be his father? (Page 220, para. 30)” This means that Nikos noticed that his father wasn’t ashamed of what he had done. Stavro felt as if hurting the young man was the best decision. But Nikos felt the exact opposite. Nikos was disappointed and wondered why his own father would embarrass himself in that way and not pay attention to the everyone else\’s reactions. Nikos felt guilty and started to question why his father acted that way as if nothing could bother him. Nikos felt many emotions, but mainly resentment. He wished that Stavro wasn’t his father, and thought that if he wasn’t an immigrant, he wouldn’t be acting like he has something to prove.