Tangerine Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Muck Fires (Symbol)

In Tangerine, muck fires are constantly smoldering under the surface of the earth. These fires symbolize other forms of suppression and lies in the novel. They symbolize the violence smoldering under the surface of Erik’s character. They also symbolize the broader tensions of a community that wants to appear perfect but has major problem. Lake Windsor is built on destruction of orange groves; its football team is built on the lie of Antoine Thomas; the Fisher family is built on the lies of their past.

Lightning (Symbol)

Lightning can symbolize a couple of different aspects of the novel. On the one hand it is a violent shock that shakes up the community, as Erik and Arthur’s aggression does. On the other hand it may symbolize a revelation—a bolt of knowledge or clarity—such as the knowledge that Paul experiences in the end of the novel when he finally remembers how Erik damaged his eyes when he was a small child.

Tangerine Groves (Motif)

The groves in Tangerine are the one thing connected to the earth by roots. Unlike the houses in the Lake Windsor development that are built on top of torn-up trees, the groves have a solid foundation. Paul loves working in the groves—as though by spending time in them he feels connected to a more substantial and solid world than the one he lives in. While Erik derides the Cruz kids for being field workers, it’s by working hard together that the family stays united.

Soccer (Symbol)

Soccer is the game that unites people in the novel. It’s what allows Paul to become close with kids from different backgrounds from him. Soccer in the novel represents a unifying activity where class differences evaporate and everyone cooperates.

Football (Symbol)

Football, in Tangerine, symbolizes violence. It’s depicted as the aggressive sport; it’s also the sport that is the center of most of the novel’s conflict. While one of the star players (Antoine) has to lie to be on the team; the other star (Erik) is willing to destroy all of his relationships to ensure his success on the team.