Study Guide

Erik Fisher in Tangerine

By Edward Bloor

Erik Fisher

Pay attention, Shmoopers: Erik Fisher is an example of what happens when parents don't teach their kids right from wrong.

He was already headed for trouble in 5th grade, when he and his buddy vandalized their neighborhood. But the turning point in his life was the day he tortured Paul, his little kindergartener brother, by holding his eyelids open while his sidekick sprayed white spray paint into them. That was the day he discovered that he could get away with just about anything, and his parents wouldn't say a thing. In fact, they even helped him hide his actions from Paul, so that the poor kid wouldn't be mad at his brother for what he had done.

Really, is there any way that this whole scenario could end in anything but murder? Let's take a closer look at our little psychopath.

Make Way for Numero Uno

Now that he's in high school, and a champion placekicker on his football team, Erik's parents lavish their attention on him all the more. Erik has learned that he can win praise, followers, and ultimately, power, just by trotting out onto the football field occasionally to kick a ball. He doesn't even have to work up a sweat. He's been spoiled by this power, so if anyone ever challenges it in any way, he becomes furious, and gets revenge. He feels entitled to hurt whomever he pleases, with words or with blows, and anyone who gets in his way is next on the chopping block. And all this, he does for fun. For his own amusement.

Of course, most of the real violence is done by one of Erik's sidekicks. He's had several, through the years—Castor, who sprayed the paint into Paul's eyes, and now Arthur, who steals from their neighbors and murders Luis. As Erik puts it, "Arthur takes care of all my light work" (3.2.57).

What does it say about Erik, that he is almost always the one ordering someone else to do the real dirty work, while he just helps, or watches?

This Guy Should Definitely Not Move to Philly…

Get It? The City of Brotherly Love?

Speaking of Erik's relationships with others, notice that he always has a "sidekick," never a "friend" The dude only hangs out with people who are useful to him in some way—everyone else is just another person to beat up for fun.

And this is true even in his own family. He values his parents, since they worship him, but Paul is a nonentity for him. Erik never talks to him, unless he is taunting him or threatening him with violence. The only time we ever see any kind of brotherly connection at all is the moment after Erik whacks Tino in the face. Paul looks up to see Erik staring at him: "I was surprised by what I saw. It was not hatred, or even anger. It was more like sorrow. Or fear" (3.1.22).

Hm, seems like Erik finally realizes that his brother might just turn out to be his undoing.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 

We think the freakiest thing about Erik is how well he can play the part of an earnest, wholesome, upstanding young man. Whenever adults are around, he puts on a show. Like Paul says about one encounter, "Erik was as phony as he needed to be" (1.3.39). And those are the guys to watch out for.

His act also makes it much harder for the truth to prevail in the end, but prevail it does. When there's nothing more for Erik to hide behind, everyone finally sees his true colors: bully, thief, and coward. Does he apologize, try to explain, vow to change? No. He was never sorry for hurting Paul—just scared he'd get in trouble. Everything has always been all about him and now "All he can do is pace, "back and forth, back and forth, in the cage that he had made for himself" (3.14.38).

Do you think Erik is going to change? Is there anywhere for him to end up, but in prison?

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