Compare and contrast the Costello brothers' relationship and the Fisher brothers' relationship.   

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misstemple1261 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The brothers’ relationships are much more different than they are alike. This difference stems from the fact that Mike Costello is a foil to Erik. A foil is a character whose traits  contrast with those of another character. This contrast highlights particular traits of each character. In Tangerine, Mike Costello’s genuine kindness, academic success, and brotherly attitude contrast with Erik’s false kindness, football mania, and sadistic attitude towards his little brother. If the author had omitted Mike Costello, the reader couldn’t compare Erik to a similar character who chooses to be good. Therefore, given that Mike and Erik differ so greatly, it stands to reason that their relationships with their little brothers contrast as much as their personalities do. 

Since Mike dies early in the novel, we don’t have many concrete examples of the Costello brothers’ relationship. However, from Mike’s bravery and kindness, the reader infers that he is a role model for Joey. He’s certainly a role model for Paul, who admires Mike for standing up to Erik, a choice that Paul still cannot bring himself to make. Given that Mike inspires people outside of his family, it’s logical that he’s an inspiration to his little brother. In contrast, Paul rejects Erik's evil nature. Paul sees Erik as a threat, not a role model. 

 Additionally, Joey’s actions after Mike’s death speak volumes about his intense love for Mike. Joey rushes to the field and tries to make Mike comfortable by taking off his shoes. He’s distraught with grief. At this moment, we can ask ourselves an uncomfortable question: how would Paul feel if the lightning bolt had struck Erik?  He certainly would feel conflicted since Erik brutally tortured Paul and even blinded him. He might feel free of a burden, yet also sad to lose the chance to redeem Erik. Regardless, his ambiguous feelings would strongly contrast with Joey’s immense sadness. This shows that while Mike and Joey are a team, Paul and Erik are at war with each other.

Though the relationships greatly differ, there is one point of similarity. Both younger brothers feel the weight of their older brothers’ legacies. Joey feels pressured to live up to Mike’s (modest) football success after his death. He even quits the soccer team and plans to play high school football. He wants to be like his brother. Paul also grapples with his older brother’s legacy. In this case, however, he wants athletic success in a different sport. Given that Erik’s football success completely monopolizes his parents’ lives, Paul struggles to make a name for himself in soccer. He wants his parents to treat him like they treat Erik, and he wants the respect that his soccer success deserves.