Tangerine Cover Image

Tangerine

by Edward Bloor

Start Free Trial

Expert Answers

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

Edward Bloor’s novel is about a highly dysfunctional family in which the parents collaborate with their older child in abusing the younger child. The parents routinely engage in psychological abuse, including belittling the younger son, Paul, and accusing him of lying. In contrast, they act as enablers by ignoring the obvious signs that the older son, Erik, is physically abusing and bullying his brother. Although Erik’s physical abuse began when Paul was about five years old, their parents have not only ignored the evidence but have even praised Erik for his violent behavior because he has channeled it into football.

The novel is primarily set during the sons’ teenage years. The fundamental problem has been exacerbated by Erik’s increasing violence toward others, no longer confined to abusing Paul. The situation continues to worsen until Erik becomes responsible for another boy’s death. As Paul continues to suffer negative consequences because of his brother’s behavior, he too begins to exhibit violent behavior. His attack on an adult results in his expulsion from school. Finally, after his grandparents’ intervention, his parents are forced to admit that Erik is a sociopath. He will now face justice for the killing he caused, and Paul’s relationship with his parents is likely to drastically improve.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the book Tangerine by Edward Bloor, the problem in the story is that Paul Fisher, the younger brother, seems to be the only one in his family who understands his older brother Erik's dark nature. Paul fears Erik and has glimpses of memories about Erik hurting him. Late in the novel, it is revealed that Paul, who is legally blind, was injured by his brother. Erik sprayed spray paint in his eyes when he was four or five years old. 

The problem of Erik's sinister nature, and his parent's refusal to see it is revealed in the first chapter. Paul, the narrator of the story, came home telling his parents that Erik tried to kill him. Erik was sitting in the house, so Paul's claims seem outlandish. Here is a quote:

"Mom took me into the kitchen and got me a glass of water. She ran her finger under the strap of my goggles and slipped them off. The she said, 'Honey, you know how it is with your eyesight. You know you can't see very well.' And that was that. But I can see. I can see everything. I can see things that mom and dad can't. Or won't." 

Paul's mother is often preoccupied with things and seems to gloss over difficulties. Paul's father is obsessed with Erik's football career, which barely leaves him time to pay attention to his youngest son. Both his mom and dad made a decision to keep the truth of Paul's injury from him. They were concerned that he'd end up hating his brother. This is something they did not prevent by concealing the truth. 

Throughout the novel, Erik's brutal nature is revealed in his attacks, both verbal and physical, on other students. Paul is afraid to tell the truth about his brother until Erik's actions result in the death of his Tangerine Middle School friend's uncle. 

After Luis's death, (he was killed when he was assaulted in the head by a blackjack—a sock filled with lead—by Arthur Bauer, Erik's henchman. He died a week later of an aneurysm, a condition that proved fatal after the head wound.) Paul finds it more and more difficult to keep silent about Erik's actions. Tino and Victor, Luis's relatives, show up at a memorial service for a student and assault Erik. Tino throws Erik's comment back at him when he says "That's for Luis. I take care of his light work." This is the comment Erik made when Arthur hit Luis in the head—that Arthur takes care of his "light work." 

Coach Warner, the football coach, grabs Victor in a headlock during the ensuing chaos after Erik is assaulted. This incites Paul to action, and he jumps on Coach Warner's back. Paul is expelled for his actions. He is enrolled in private school and believes he will attend Tangerine Middle School again when his expulsion term ends. He writes a statement for the police regarding Luis's murder, telling the truth about everything he knows about Erik's involvement. Paul's grandparents visit and tell Paul's parents that the way Erik has turned out is a direct result of their poor parenting. Paul's father is deeply disappointed in Erik and realizes how obsessed he's been with the Erik Fisher Football Dream. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The conflict is one of a first born child getting all the attention of parents while the youngest is neglected. Erik is the shining star in his father's eyes. The Erik Fisher Football Dream seems to be the goal of the family. Paul is a talented soccer player whose life takes a back seat to his brother's. To add to the issue, Erik has something to do with his youngest brother's vision problem. Only, nothing is ever said in the family to reveal what really happened.

The resolution occurs after Paul assaults a coach at the football awards program. Paul runs away and heads home. When he encounters the gray subdivision wall behind his house where the words "Seagulls Suck" had been cleaned off, his flashbacks result in the reason his vision was so impaired. At that point, Paul no longer fears Erik, and helps to identify Erik and his friend Arthur as the cause of Luis Cruz's death. Erik's true nature is unveiled to his father, and the neglect of his youngest son is driven home.

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