Study Guide

Tangerine Fear

By Edward Bloor


I've always been afraid of Erik. Now I get to be afraid of Erik and Arthur. (1.7.13)

Arthur hasn't even done anything yet—is Paul going a bit overboard here? Or is this well-earned fear by association?

I remembered the face of The Boy Who Never Grew, the face of that eighty-nine-year-old little boy. I remembered the fear in his eyes. I know that fear. It's my fear. (1.15.61)

Is Paul the real "freak" in this story? He seems to be identifying himself with the circus performer, but we're thinking that Paul is actually the only one who comes across as relatively normal—besides the Cruzes, of course.

I'm still afraid of Erik. I'm afraid of Arthur now, too. But today I wasn't a coward, and that counts for something. (1.17.14)

Paul says this right after he helps save kids from the sinkhole, so, yeah, he's been pretty brave. But what exactly does bravery count for? Can you be brave and cowardly at the same time? And why is it so important for Paul to think of himself as brave?

"You're a gutless wonder, Fisher. You're scared of girls. You're afraid of your own brother. Now you're afraid of these lowlifes. They treat you like a dog, and you take it!" (2.12.39)

Here's the thing: Joey calls Paul a coward for not standing up to the kids at Tangerine. But maybe Paul is actually the brave one, because he's the one who's confident enough to make friends and accept people on their own terms. That sounds a lot braver than fleeing back to your old school just because people are different in the new one.

There is fear in their eyes when we come charging off our bus. […] They are beaten by their own fear before the game even begins. This is a feeling I've never known before. Anyway, I have never known it from this side of the fear. (2.15.7)

He may be able to win soccer games, but Paul is beaten by his own fear before each day begins. Should have had those Wheaties!

I started to feel sick. […] I could feel the blood draining out of my head. […] Theresa said […], "Are you OK?" I just stared back at her, paralyzed with fear. (2.1.7-9)

Paul is so scared that other people notice his physical reaction. Has his fear gotten worse and worse because he has never stood up for himself? Or because he's starting to understand what Erik is actually capable of doing?

When I finally looked right into [Erik's] eyes, I was surprised by what I saw. It was not hatred, or even anger. It was more like sorrow. Or fear. (2.1.22)

This is one of the weirdest parts of the book. Does Erik have a soul after all? Is he afraid of his brother, or of what his brother knows? If so, this is the only glimpse we ever catch of it.

I understood that I was supposed to be terrified by this spectacle—these two demonic creatures on this dark, lonely road. But for once in my life, I wasn't. (3.9.57)

Here, Paul looks at Erik and Arthur approaching him with metal baseball bats. We're honestly not sure why he's not scared, because this seems like the perfect moment for a little healthy fear. But he's not—even though he knows that Arthur, at least, means business.

"I saw him do it. I saw Arthur Bauer sneak up on Luis Cruz, like a coward, and hit him on the side of the head" (3.12.51)

How the tables have turned. Now Paul realizes the truth: it's Erik and Arthur, and people like them, who are the cowards—not him. The brave are the ones who speak the truth, not the ones who hide from it.

"No fear, Mom. Show them no fear" (3.13.60)

Hm, maybe Paul's parents can learn something from him yet. He sure hasn't learned anything from them—nothing good, anyway.

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