Tangerine Summary and Analysis of Part Three: Nov. 20 - Dec. 6


Nov. 20 Paul invites his friends over to his house for the first time. Theresa, Tino ,and Henry get dropped off by Wayne. The plan is that they’ll use Paul’s computer to work on their science project. Tino is uncomfortable in Paul’s big house. Theresa is amazed. Paul is happy to share. After working on the project, Paul invites them out back to kick the soccer ball.

As they’re playing, Paul hears a disturbing sound: Erik and Arthur have pulled into the driveway and are arriving home. Paul doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t have time to get his friends out of the yard, but he knows there’s going to be trouble. Sure enough, when Erik and Arthur come through the gate and see his friends, they start making fun of them for being farm laborers. Paul is furious but he doesn’t know what to say. He tells his friends to ignore them, but Tino stands up to Erik. As he does, Arthur takes his blackjack out of his gym bag. Erik tells him to put it away. But then Tino tells him that he saw his flop on the field. He starts to make fun of Erik. Erik hits Tino across the face so hard that Tino spins around before he hits the ground.

Paul is horrified, but he’s still paralyzed. He doesn’t know how to stand up to Erik, who looks into his eyes for a moment in a very strange way. Paul thinks he sees fear—or maybe even sorrow. Erik walks away, leaving Paul and Tino on the ground. Tino is bleeding. He doesn’t want any help from Paul. Paul glances up and sees something move on the balcony—like a white shirt. He wonders if his dad saw what happened. Paul’s friends leave upset. Wayne picks them up. Paul is left alone, wondering what he could’ve done differently.

Nov. 21 Paul and his mom go to their storage box to drop off some things. While they’re there, Paul’s mom locks her key into the box. She panics for a moment, but then remembers that Erik also has a key. Paul asks why Erik has a key. She shrugs and says he asked for one. Paul and his mom drive to Lake Windsor High where Paul’s mom has a meeting with a counselor. It turns out that Erik’s grades are slipping. While Mrs. Fisher goes in to talk, she tells Paul to go watch the football practice. But Paul doesn’t want to face Erik, so he hides under the bleachers.

Practice is over and a bunch of players are hanging around—Erik and Arthur included. Antoine Thomas is sitting on the bleachers with some other friends. While Paul watches from under the bleachers, Luis drives up. He comes over to the players and asks which one is Erik. He confronts Erik about hitting a kid. Erik says something to Arthur, who takes out his blackjack and hits Luis across the head. Luis falls to the ground. He starts bleeding. Erik and his friends walk away laughing. Antoine Thomas, who saw it all, isn’t laughing. Antoine helps Luis up, checks if he’s okay, and walks him back to his truck. Paul’s mom comes out, oblivious to everything. She and Paul drive back home and she cheerfully says that the counselor thinks that Erik’s grades will improve after football season.

Nov. 23 The temperature drops suddenly, and Paul’s mom wants to get the family their warm clothes from the storage bin. Erik says that he left his key to the bin in his locker. Paul’s mom decides to ask the maintenance people at Lake Windsor Downs if they have a spare key. When Paul goes to school he sees that a lot of the kids are absent. Henry tells Paul that they’re all at their groves, fighting the freeze. Henry explains that families that depend on citrus and vegetables need their kids to say home to help them fight off the cold. They build bonfires, he says, among other things to fight the cold. Paul wants to go help the Cruz family save their tangerines. He asks Henry if he wants to come with him after school. Then he leaves a message with his mom, telling her that he’s going to the Cruzes.

After school Wayne gives Henry and Paul a ride over. When they arrive they see that there’s ice all over the Golden Dawn trees. Paul doesn’t understand, but Wayne tells him that they spray the trees with water to encase them with ice, because the ice keeps them at 32 degrees. If they go any lower, they die. The ice acts like a protection. But they don’t have the ability to spray all the trees because they need pumps that take diesel fuel, which is too expensive. It’s also risky because the ice has to stay slushy: if it freezes hard, the trees can crack.

Luis comes up and asks what they’re doing there. Paul says they want to help. Luis is cautious. He asks why. Paul says that they’re War Eagles, which Luis accepts. Paul calls his mom, who sounds strangely upset about something. He can’t figure it out. Paul tells her that he’s at a slumber party; he doesn’t explain what he’s actually doing. He and Henry go with Tino to the Quonset hut that’s filled with baby trees covered in protective dirt.

Tino explains what’s going on: his dad and uncle are starting a huge bonfire in the Cleopatra grove. Luis will run the pumps to keep the new grove iced. Paul and Henry can help doing everything. They set out and begin dragging brush and tires to the fire. Then they haul dirt. Then they help to hack ice off the braches. When they’re in the middle of one thing, they get called over to another place. It’s freezing cold. They work in the dark. One grove is already dead and they start to use these trees as fuel. There are smudge pots in the fields, and Tino says these need diesel too. Tino has a big thermometer, and he’s paying attention to the temperature to keep Luis posted.

As the night goes on and Paul works intensely, running from one emergency to the next, he thinks of people in Lake Windsor drinking cocoa and sitting by fake logs. Then the temperature starts to drop. It goes down to 24. Luis tells everyone that if it stays this cold for ten more minutes he’s calling it off. Paul can’t believe it. As Paul stands looking that the frozen trees in the firelight, he realizes how tired he is. Luis sends the kids in to get warm. Theresa brings Paul coffee. He’s never had coffee before. His fingers are so cold he can’t hold the cup.

Everyone is ready to go back out, but Luis tells Paul that he needs to rest. Paul doesn’t want to, but he agrees. Luis comes in at one point and Paul says that he saw what happened to him with his brother. He tells Luis about the blackjack. Luis didn’t realize that he was hit with something. Paul goes to sleep. When he wakes up everyone is coming back in. Tino thanks Paul. Paul says he’s sorry about his brother. They have a team hug. Then Luis takes Paul aside and tells him that Antoine Thomas and his friend are planning something. They want Luis to come to the school on Monday to get back at Erik and Arthur. Paul feels strangely satisfied by this idea. His mom comes and takes him home.

Nov. 24 Paul sleeps for eighteen hours. No one wakes him for Thanksgiving, or to go to Erik’s final game. It’s strange. In the morning Paul’s dad comes downstairs and tells Paul about the game. He’s very upset about it. The Lake Windsor Seagulls won, but Erik didn’t get any good plays. Antoine and his friend, Brian, kept playing to each other. Then Brian threw terrible passes to Erik. Mr. Fisher says that it almost seemed like they did it deliberately to make Erik look like a fool. Paul looks through the newspaper and sees a photo of the all-county soccer team. He wishes he was in the picture, but he’s happy to see Shandra there.

Paul’s dad asks about the picture and he asks Paul if he made the all-county team. Paul bursts out angrily. He asks his dad what he even knows about his soccer season; he asks if he knows what position he played. Of course, Mr. Fisher knows nothing. But Paul asks how many field goals Erik kicked. His dad is ashamed. He gets it. But he still justifies it: he says that this was an important season for Erik’s future career. Paul’s mom the mutters that Erik might not have a future football career. Mr. Fisher is horrified. Paul doesn’t understand her new attitude.

Just then, the phone rings. It’s one of their neighbors telling them to look outside. All the mailboxes have been smashed on their street. And someone spray painted on the back wall of the housing development with graffiti saying that the Seagulls suck. When Paul goes and looks at the wall, he has an eerie flashback, but then something happens and he passes out. His parents bring him back inside. They’re worried about him. His dad is very upset, demanding to know what happened, but Paul feels fine.

Nov. 27 Today is the day that Luis and Antoine plan to get back at Erik. Paul’s mom has made him stay home from school and as he waits, he thinks about what’s going to happen to Erik. But when Erik comes home, he looks fine. Nothing happened, it seems. That night, Paul’s mom hosts another HOA meeting. Paul sits and listens and looks at Erik’s scholarship offers on the computer. There’s nothing. The people in the meeting talk about the missing koi fish. They’re all convinced that someone is stealing them. Paul walks into the meeting and interrupts. He says that their theory makes no sense. Who would steal the fish and how would they do it? He explains that it’s the osprey that are doing it. He says that he’s seen them. Everyone is surprised by Paul’s outburst. Paul’s mom asks if there’s anything else he needs to say. Does he know about the home robberies? Paul says that he doesn’t know anything. He leaves the meeting.

Nov. 28 Paul goes to school and finds out that Luis is dead. He collapsed in the grove and his father found him. They say that he died of an aneurism. Paul is horrified. He calls his mom to pick him up from school. He tells her that he’s sick.

Nov. 29 Theresa calls Paul and tells him not to come to Luis’s funeral. She doesn’t want her brother or other people to do anything bad to Paul. Paul realizes that Luis told the family about what happened with Erik. This is so different than his family members, who tell each other nothing. Paul goes and sits by the koi pond. A small boy rides up on his bike. Paul asks him if his parents told him about the alligator in the pond that eats kids. The boy shakes his head. Paul asks if his parents ever told him that if he eats before he swims that he’ll drown. The boy says yes. Paul tells him that his parents lied. The boy says that his parents don’t lie. Paul says that he’s wrong: they lied to him.

Nov. 30 It’s the day of Luis’s funeral. Paul puts on his suit and goes into his back yard. He digs up the sod and discovers that underneath, there’s sand. He cries into the sand. Then he goes back inside, takes off his suit, and throws it away.

Dec. 1 Paul tells his parents that he’s sick and he stays away from school. He’s miserable and confused. It’s the night of the senior awards ceremony at Erik’s school. There’s also going to be a memorial ceremony for Mike Costello. Paul goes along glumly. Soon after the award ceremony begins, Paul sees Victor and Tino coming into the auditorium. He doesn’t understand what they’re doing there. He’s terrified as he watches them move toward the stage. He realizes that they’re there to avenge Luis. They’re waiting for Erik to go up on stage, and nobody else seems to notice them.

As Erik steps up on the stage, Tino walks up to him and kicks him in the gut. Then he hits him in the face and says that it’s for his brother, Luis. Victor jumps on Arthur and starts beating him up. The auditorium erupts in chaos. Coach Warner jumps on Tino while Victor runs off to the back exit. The alarm goes off as he goes through the fire doors. As Coach Warner tackles Tino, Paul runs down and leaps on Coach Warner’s back. Tino gets away also. Paul’s dad and Coach Warner are outraged. They grab Paul and demand to know who the boys were. But Paul is stricken by a whole new feeling: he has no fear at all. He refuses to give Tino and Victor’s names; then he breaks away from his dad and runs away. He goes back to Lake Windsor Downs and stands at the back wall outside the development. The spray paint has been painted over.

As Paul is standing, reeling in the dark, Arthur and Erik drive up in the Land Cruiser. As they approach him, Paul still feels no fear. He tells them to try to hurt him. But as they face him in the dark, their eyes and faces swollen, he realizes that there’s nothing to fear about them at all. They are actually totally weak: their threats are empty. He tells them that he saw them kill Luis. He says there were other witnesses too. As he says this, Arthur panics. He tells Erik they should get out of there. Erik flies into a rage and shouts to Arthur to shut up. But instead of calling him Arthur, he calls him Castor. The name startles Paul. Erik and Arthur jump in the Land Cruiser and speed away.

Paul is left in the dark, with the strangest feeling coming over him. The name Castor brings back a sudden flood of memory. Here it is, the memory he’s been trying to recall all his life. It happened back in Houston, in a different housing development where Erik used to have a sidekick named Castor. Castor did Erik’s bidding—just as Arthur does now. When Erik was in fifth grade, he and Castor spray-painted the walls of the development. They got caught. They thought that Paul told on them. Now the horrible memory come flooding back to Paul: they took him into the garage, held his head, pried his eyelids open, and spray-painted his eyes. Paul’s mom found him and raced him to the hospital. She thought he was going to go blind, but they managed to save some of his vision.

With this horribly memory flooding back, Paul goes inside to his parents who’ve just arrived back from the school. They’re about to get angry with him for jumping on the coach, but he cuts them off. He demands they tell him their version of what happened to him. They explain to him that they wanted him to think it was an accident because they didn’t want him to hate Erik. He asks them if they wanted him to hate himself instead. His parents start crying. They beg his forgiveness. He leaves them and goes to answer the phone.

Dec. 2 Joey calls Paul to tell him that Betty Bright’s car is parked outside of Mr. Donnelly’s house. Paul runs over and sees Shandra in Betty’s car. Shandra tells Paul that Betty and Antoine have gone in to tell Mr. Donnelly about the fact that Antoine lives in Tangerine but plays for Lake Windsor. Antoine doesn’t want to lie anymore. He wants to be loyal to his community. He also wants Shandra not to have to hide her name anymore. Betty and Antoine come out of the house. They tell Paul that Mr. Donnelly is going to run the story tomorrow. Antoine tells Paul that it’s time to start telling the truth. This idea thrills Paul. He goes home; his parents tell him that they’re having an important meeting at the house tomorrow and they want him to be there too.

Dec. 3 Antoine’s story comes out in the paper. The news goes around and the decision is made that all of the Seagull’s victories are disqualified. None of it will go on record. Erik’s dream is crashing down. Paul’s dad stares at the paper. Phone calls come in. Everyone is blaming Antoine, including Paul’s dad. But Paul tells him that everyone knew about Antoine. They were all in on it—Paul’s dad included. Paul’s dad looks down, full of shame.

Dec. 3 Later the people of Lake Windsor converge on the Fisher family home for an important meeting. Mrs. Fisher has an announcement to make: she gets Erik and Arthur to come inside and sit in the room. Their faces are badly beaten, their eyes swollen shut. Mrs. Fisher then announces to everyone that she found many stolen items from the houses that were robbed in her own storage unit. She tells everyone that Erik and Arthur were the ones robbing the houses that were being sprayed for termites. Erik would keep watch, while Arthur went in wearing a gas mask. Everyone is astounded. Mrs. Fisher explains that she talked to the sheriff about it. Mr. Fisher explains that the sheriff has said that, if the theft victims get all their valuables back and if they agree to sign a restitution, then Erik and Arthur won’t have to go to jail. He asks the neighbors to show his son this mercy. The neighbors don’t see why they should help these thieves out. Arthur’s dad, Mr. Bauer, argues with them. Finally they agree to sign.

Everyone gets up to leave, but as they step outside the police pull up with Joey. Joey points to Arthur and Erik. The police approach Arthur and announce that he’s under arrest for the murder of Luis Cruz. Everyone is astounded. Mr. Bauer tries to defend his son, but Paul pipes up. It’s his moment of truth. He tells them that he saw the murder happen and that his brother Erik told Arthur to do it. The police ask Paul if he’d be willing to give a statement. He says he will. The police tell Mr. and Mrs. Fisher to keep Erik at home. They agree to this. They’re horrified.

As soon as everyone leaves, Paul’s grandparents show up. They’re on their way to Orlando. Paul’s parents tell them everything that’s happening. They tell Paul’s mom that they always saw this coming because she never dealt with Erik when he was a kid. Paul’s mom is miserable. She shows them around her grand new home. They tell her that it sure is nicer than the places she grew up. She almost cries. After they leave, the principal of Paul’s school calls and tells Mrs. Fisher to go in tomorrow for a meeting about Paul.

Dec. 4 Paul and his mom go into the school. She’s very upset. When they arrive at the school Paul’s mom goes into the office and Theresa meets Paul. Tino and Victor are in another office. Theresa is upset with Paul for getting involved in their fight. Paul says that he had to do so. Paul gives her the final report for their science project. She cries. He goes into the office where Tino and Victor are sitting. Tino tells him that they’ve been suspended for three weeks. He tells Paul not to worry. But when Paul goes in to see the principal, he finds out that he’s being expelled because he attacked a teacher. Paul can’t believe it. When he and his mom walk outside, all the kids surround him. They start patting him on the back and cheering for him. He’s a hero. Paul’s mom drives him to the mall to get new clothes. She tells Paul that he’ll be going to the Catholic school.

Dec. 5 Paul’s dad comes home from the police station with Erik. He’s ashamed of Erik now and seems to want to have nothing to do with him. The tables have turned. Tino calls Paul and Paul tells him that he’s going to St. Anthony’s Catholic School. Tino wonders if Paul will be able to play with the War Eagles. Paul tells him that he definitely will. Then Tino tells Paul about the new generation Golden Dawn tangerines. He invites Paul to come help out on the grove any time.

Dec. 5 Later Paul writes his full statement for the police. He thought he’d only write a paragraph. Instead he writes for hours. He explains everything he knows and feels about Erik. He also writes at length about Luis and his family. When he’s done he brings the work to his parents and gives it to them to read.

Dec. 6 It’s Paul’s first day of school for the third time this year. His dad drives him to school this time. As they drive by Lake Windsor High, Paul’s dad points out the memorial tree that was planted for Mike Costello. Paul thinks it’s nice. But he also thinks about the trees planted for Luis—more than just one tree—an entire orchard. As they drive to the school they pass vast orange groves. Paul rolls down the window and takes in the scent of the oranges.


As Paul finds himself caught in the middle of the tensions between Lake Windsor and Tangerine, the differences between the two towns are revealed. Lake Windsor is a place where people are concerned with appearances—from the façades of housing development, to the glory of the football team. Tangerine, on the other hand, is a place where the people can’t afford to worry about how things look. They’re more focused on basic survival. This class difference is key to what divides the two places. Lake Windsor is wealthy and middle class, while Tangerine is poorer and very hardworking. This class difference shapes the attitudes and values of each community. In Tangerine the kids are committed to the survival of their family’s citrus groves; we see Tino and Theresa’s pride in the Golden Dawn. We also seem them staying home from school, working through the night in the freezing weather to save the trees. In Lake Windsor on the other hand, Paul’s father is oblivious to Paul while Erik and Arthur rob and vandalize their own community.

The class difference also effects how the different communities relate to each other. While Lake Windsor people look down their nose at Tangerine, the kids from Tangerine are defensive against Lake Windsor snobbery. As Paul spends time in Tangerine, he comes to see his own community as one in denial of many things: its prejudices (against the poorer community); its lack of integrity (from the corroding housing development to cheating at football); its potential for violence (from Erik’s attack on Paul to his attack on Luis). In the end of the section we see Paul finally becoming empowered to break through the denial and lies and speak the truth about his own community and family. As he confronts Erik and Antoine about killing Luis, he is freed from his old fears. He then becomes capable of confronting his parents about their complicity in Erik’s violence. By speaking the truth about his own community, he frees himself from that oppressiveness his community and is finally accepted by Tino and the people of Tangerine.