In "Tangerine," why did Erik and Vincent spray paint Paul's eyes?

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In the novel Tangerine, Edward Bloor reveals the many cruelties of Erik slowly, beginning with the present, and working backward to the incident where Paul was blinded. This is very effective since Paul is the narrator of the novel. Throughout the novel, Paul gets fragments of memories about the incident, but it isn't until near the end that he is able to piece everything together. Interestingly, the description of the incident comes right after a fit of rage in which he vandalizes a car.

Erik has a long history of finding a sidekick who will do anything he wants. At the beginning of the novel, it's Arthur. Toward the end, it was Vincent Castor. This is revealed when Paul finally puts the pieces together after Erik's fit of rage to complete the memory of what happened to him. He describes it his entry dated Friday, December 1. He remembers that Erik and Vincent vandalized a wall in a development they lived in called Silver Meadows. Erik and Vincent believe that Paul told adults that they vandalized the wall, and to get revenge, Erik held Paul down and pried his eyelids open while Vincent sprayed paint into them.

As this section of the novel continues, Paul confronts his parents with the knowledge of what happened to him. They are shocked that he remembers. They've told him all his life that he stared at an eclipse too long. It really is an exciting and satisfying conclusion from that point on in the novel.

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Erik and Vincent spray-painted Paul's eyes because they believed that Paul was the one who got Vincent into trouble. Essentially, both boys accused Paul of telling on Vincent for spray-painting the gray wall at the Silver Meadows development. Paul was only four or five-years-old at the time of the incident.

Paul denied ever exposing Vincent for his part in spray-painting the wall. However, both boys had resolutely ignored Paul's pleas at the time. While Erik held Paul's eyelids open, Vincent sprayed white paint into them. This horrifying incident left Paul screaming in pain on the garage floor. Paul remembers his mother trying to clean his eyes out with the hose. He was then taken to the hospital, where the doctor warned that Paul might lose his peripheral vision. Despite the overwhelming odds against Paul, the doctor assured his parents that Paul would not be blinded by his ordeal.

To prevent Paul from hating his brother, Erik, for his cruel actions, Paul's parents later made up a story about how Paul's vision impairment originated from staring too long at a solar eclipse.

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