Study Guide

Tangerine Man and the Natural World

By Edward Bloor

Man and the Natural World

The black smoke was pouring from a huge bonfire of trees. Citrus trees. […] "I don't think they can build with them. I don't think those trees have any use other than fruit. […] You never hear anyone bragging that their dining-room set is solid grapefruit, do you?" (1.1.19-23)

As if fruit is not a useful thing. Or photosynthesis. Lake Windsor folks only see a use for natural things that can be used for building stuff.

"I'll bet the people who used to live here, the people who grew the tangerines, were really happy with this weather. That's why they were here, right? To grow tangerines?" (1.5. 28)

Paul sees that the weather isn't picking on them—it's just doing what it's always done. It's the people who have changed. (There goes Paul again, seeing better than anyone else despite his thick glasses.)

"The lightning knows. It hits right where it's always hit. It's just that some fool has stuck a house there" (1.8.39)

That's why the Cruz family left their lightning trees up. They understand that you have to work with nature, 'cause nature sure ain't gonna work with you.

"More people are killed by lightning in Tangerine County per year than in any other county in America" (1.12.15)

It's not exactly ironic that lightening kills all these people, but it's definitely something. Maybe cosmically just? They're trying to tame nature and they just end up making it angrier.

The ospreys don't have to smell the muck fire. And their streets don't get flooded every time it rains. I wondered if their nests ever got hit by lightning. (1.14.5)

Well, do the ospreys mess with nature? Do they cut down trees? Light bonfires? Build middle schools on top of bad ground? We didn't think so. And they're probably safe from lightning.

"It's a sinkhole! It's opening up under the field!" (1.16.43)

(1) This is way more articulate than our probable reaction to a sinkhole opening up near our classroom; (2) it's major payback time for this community. They're getting a quick, nearly fatal lesson in why you can't just bulldoze your buildings into wherever you want.

"Not that your brother and his new type of banana aren't fascinating" (2.13.35)

Come on, Joey, really? Growing food is just a little bit important, you know, for our survival and stuff. But that's the Lake Windsor attitude—until it's in the Whole Foods, they don't' want to know about it.

Your koi are a gourmet meal for the ospreys out on Route 89. (2.13.25)

Hee-hee. Ospreys eating gourmet meals. In little bird tuxedos. Oh, yeah, and this is what happens to invasive, non-native species: they become sushi. Also, morbidly, they become lightening victims.

"(T)he muck fire is still burning, and now we have swarms of mosquitoes breeding in the swamp that we created out there" (2.13.29)

This is what we call a cascade of interventions: trying to fix something just breaks more things, and pretty soon you've swallowed a horse.

"But you can't stop 'em from eatin' wood any more than you can stop that muck fire from burning or them mosquitoes from suckin' blood" (2.14.63)

…but people from the rural areas of Tangerine have the true wisdom. Like Yoda. One quick thought: we're a little afraid that this is some kind of reverse racism, like Paul has to go to the "primitive" people to learn some valuable truth about himself . But we'll let it slide for now.

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