Tortilla Flat, written by John Steinbeck was set after World War One in a district of Monterey named Tortilla Flat. This story was about not only the less than glamorous lifestyle lived by Danny and his fellow “paisanos”, but the importance of friendship through bad times over material values. All of the major events carry with them a strong implication of this theme which is often reflected through the characters’ decisions. Along with an incredibly ironic yet powerful friendship based on morals, this story is also is about appreciating the simple things in life.
Each problem encountered by this band of friends was meaningful in its own way. As a reader the most significant events and characters were Danny, his death, and Pilon. Danny began this tale from the beginning as more of a pathetic, alcoholic, useless man, but slowly progressed and evolved into a character that represented unity and leadership. He, being the owner of the two houses, was a clearly distinct leader and executive decision maker among these friends. His symbolic role in the aspect of unity is represented through the repercussions of his death.
When Danny goes insane and leaves, the men still have hope he will be back and although it does not appear to be a loss without him they are truly nothing without Danny. These men carried with them throughout the whole story the importance of friendship in their conscience but voluntarily left that behind because it was obvious that they needed him. While Danny represented unity and leadership among friendship, Pilon was a symbol of good intentions and friendship as a whole.
With every move Pilon made he always questioned it was a selfish choice or how he could help his friends with the money. Although his many deposits often resulted in drinking with his companions, they often started with the idea of paying rent, giving a gift, or making amends. Pilon was truly a good soul that did not have the funds to support his charitable ideas. His most charitable actions involved him recruiting new friends, but were ultimately his acts of kindness attempting to help ones in need.
All of these were covered with ironically immoral decisions to do very virtuous deeds making Pilon seem more of a fool then a good man. These two were also portrayed the hardships faced after the world war. Danny and Pilon both embody this theme of friendship so greatly that the wrong they do is almost inferior to their good values in life, which were very influential to all of the characters in this novel. Unity and virtues became so ironically personified by Steinbeck through these characters to capture and portray his themes. This novel was very well written.
The imagery and wording Steinbeck uses helped to visualize and connect while coherently getting across his point. Steinbeck’s purpose in writing this novel was to help to not only connect many with the struggles of the lower class, but to personify unity through very likeable characters. The purpose seemed vague until the connection to the characters grew stronger which was the start to understanding the book. His themes came across strongly and were accomplished very well. As for passages in which the theme was most established, many showed them in a more powerful way than others.
As some of the last words describing not only the death of Danny, but the demise of the faithful companionship, when the house burns and the friends all go their separate ways can be best summarized as, “Thus must it be, O wise friends of Danny. The cord that bound you together is cut. The magnet that drew you has lost its virtue”. Danny was truly the most important of the men although he seemingly did nothing but drink he was what held them together. With the fire beginning to start, it was symbolic of everything.
The end, the friendship, Danny’s death, and unity were all so greatly symbolized by the fire. That scene perfectly isolated the themes all at once and ended the novel in a great way. Tortilla Flat would be a good read for kids starting in high school. Because the concept of the story is harder to connect to and there are many implications leading to humor, many younger than fourteen or fifteen might not understand the book. This book contains an extensive amount of imagery making it very easy to visualize and Steinbeck’s elaboration helps to make the story seem real.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 December 2016
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