Tangerine Cover Image


by Edward Bloor

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What do Joey's comments in Tangerine reveal about his character?

Quick answer:

Joey's comments reveal his resistance to embracing diversity and adapting to the culture at Tangerine Middle School. He dismisses the value of making connections, misinterprets friendly teasing as bullying, and ultimately expresses disdain for the school's diversity. Unlike Paul, Joey is unwilling to adjust his attitude or appreciate the cultural differences, indicating a possible influence of racist views from his upbringing.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Joey’s comments tell us that, unlike his friend Paul, Joey is unwilling to embrace Tangerine Middle School’s diversity and adapt his attitude to its culture of sarcastic comments and tough-guy bravado.  

First, Joey says, “Theresa Cruz. Why? Is she cute or something?” when Paul tells him to ask for Theresa Cruz to be his guide on his first day of school at Tangerine. This shows that Joey doesn’t understand the importance of making connections, a skill that helped Paul quickly become part of the Tangerine community. Joey doesn’t see what Theresa Cruz has to offer him, beyond her physical appearance. Joey’s unable to meet the Tangerine students halfway by adjusting to their culture. He’s also unwilling to listen to Paul, who has become an expert on how to survive and thrive in Tangerine’s different school culture.

“That guy’s bad news. I don’t need this. I don’t need this at all,” Joey says when Paul puts himself and Joey into a group with Tino. Joey feels genuinely hurt by Tino’s comments, which include calling him “Tuna Boy” and making fun of his unwillingness to leave Paul’s side. While Paul underwent the same teasing without complaint, Joey can’t recognize that Tino makes friends through lighthearted insults. He only sees Tino’s comments as bullying, not as attempts to reach out.

“I let you talk me into coming to this dump. This place is like darkest Africa. Like the Amazon jungle. Like we’re learning to live among the natives here,” is Joey’s last comment before leaving Tangerine Middle School. This shows that Joey is completely fed up with Tangerine and willing to target his fellow classmates’ ethnicity in order to make himself feel superior.  The reader can also infer that Joey may have picked up racist language and thoughts from his parents or community. Again, the reader sees a differences between Paul and Joey. While Paul is happy to be at a diverse school that lets him meet people other than his own race, Joey sees Tangerine’s diversity as a flaw, not as something to celebrate.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial