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Literature / My Sweet Orange Tree

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My Sweet Orange Tree (Meu Pé de Laranja Lima) is a Portuguese book written by José Mauro de Vasconcelos in 1968.

It tells the story of Zezé, a young boy who lives in Minas Gerais in a very humble house with his family, consisting of his unemployed and alcoholic father, and his mother, which works to support the home and his siblings. Despite the lack of understanding, affection and the aggression suffered by from his father and school colleagues, the boy has a great skill for storytelling using his imagination.With financial difficulties, the family has to move. At the new home, Zezé finds an orange tree, which he talks every day. One of them, he tries to ride on the bumper of Manoel Valadares, the "Portuga", but is caught and spanked. The boy feels humiliated and wants revenge, however Valadares ends up understanding Zezé, which turns to share his world of fantasies, and a new friendship arises…buut not for long.


My Sweet Orange Tree has the following tropes.

  • Abusive Parents: Zeze’s alcoholic and loser father.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Zeze learned to read at age five by himself. Even Uncle Edmundo lampshades this from time to time.
  • Adults Are Useless: With the possible exception of Portuga, the only adult who understands Zeze (and not completely).
  • Amusing Injuries
  • Attention Whore: Jandira accuses Zeze of being this after he becomes ill and she is the only one not to care about his illness. Justified since nobody knows about Zeze's friendship with Portuga and everyone else believes that he is just depressed about the death of his tree.
  • Berserk Button: Don’t call Jandira a whore. Zeze learns this the hard way.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The book ends with an older Zeze, now a famous writer, visiting Portuga’s grave and complaining that Growing Up Sucks and that his Coming-of-Age Story was too early for him.
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  • Cheerful Child: Zeze, Luis and Totoca.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Mangaratiba train.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Zeze loosely narrates a fantastical version of his life throughout the book, and his conversation patterns have a...unique logic to them. Not to mention he fantasizes that his only friend is a talking tree that roleplays.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Totoca tries to be this to Zeze.
  • Cool Big Bro: Aparently in the family, every sibling had to take care of the younger in line. Therefore, Jandira acts as this for Totoca, while he acts as this for Zeze, who acts like this to Luis. Gloria also acts like a Cool Big Sis to Zeze, though.
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Crapsack World: Zeze and Portuga are two of maybe six sympathetic characters in the book.
  • Daydream Believer
  • Death Seeker: Poor Zeze always wants to kill himself after he gets beaten for little reason at all.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After Portuga’s death, poor Zeze does not take it well and has a high fever for weeks that nearly kills him.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: The baker towards Lala.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Everytime Jandira, Lala or any other female character beats Zeze for his pranks, it’s usually Played for Laughs. Except when Zeze pushes Jandira’s Berserk Button.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Jandira.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Zeze main’s flaw is that he is very, very blunt. For example after he doesn’t get Christmas presents and the first thing he does is to complain out loud that having a poor family sucks. You can guess how his father and siblings react.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Zeze and Portuga eventually develop one.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Zeze is actually a good guy, if a bit mischievous; he's just clueless to things that people might generally be sensitive to.
    • Jandira might fall into this, we are not sure but all her interactions with Zeze are not good. It doesn't help that Zeze is Innocently Insensitive and Jandira has a short fuse.
  • Kick the Dog: Jandira does it after she breaks Zeze's balloon just because he was late for supper. Calling her a whore was also not Zeze's best idea.
    • Zeze's father also falls into this after he beats the poor kid to a pulp just because the latter sang a song to cheer him up and his dad believed he was being annoying.
  • Longing for Fictionland
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Totoca's reaction after Zeze falls ill out of depression. Justified, since Totoca believes that Zeze is depressed because he told him that his tree was going to die.
  • Only Friend: Portuga, to Zeze.
  • Really Gets Around: Jandira. Just don’t rub it on her face.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: A hell of a lot! Even more troubling since Zeze acts realistically his age, and therefore does things that are messed up, yet in a realistically childlike way.

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