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Tortilla Flat

John Steinbeck

Character List

Plot Overview

Character Analysis

Danny -  Following Steinbeck's Knights of the Round Table analogy, Danny would be king Arthur. He is the protagonist of Tortilla Flat and the leader and father figure of the group of paisanos that the story focuses on. Being the owner of their house, he feels more responsibility then the rest for the well being of the group. He is twenty-five years old when he leaves for World War II.

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Pilon -  Every successful group has a thinker, and in the case of Danny's friends, Pilon is the thinker. When there is a difficult situation or a need, he is usually the one to find a solution. He is also a very spiritual person. Though he lives an unscrupulous life, Pilon always tries to do what is right. He also has a surprising appreciation for the mystical beauty of nature.

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Pablo  -  Though he is not a smart or righteous man, Pablo demonstrates a keen insight for the messages that life tries to teach. He understands when to speak and when not to, and always seems to do the right thing, whether he understands it or not.
Jesus Maria Corcoran  -  Among the ruffians of Tortilla Flat, one would not expect to find a humanitarian, but that is just what Jesus Maria is. Not only is he constantly doing all that he can to help those less fortunate than himself, but he has a knack for finding situations where his humanity can be put to use.
Big Joe Portagee  -  Large, slow witted, lazy, and weak willed, Big Joe is something of an anti-hero in Tortilla Flat yet he still manages to garner some sympathy from readers. He has to be pushed to do good things, but once he gets going, he is a force to be reckoned with. He often does bad things by accident, not really meaning harm, but just forgetting what he is supposed to do.
The Pirate -  Described as a man whose mind did not grow up with his body, the Pirate is an odd addition to Danny's group. He represents sincerity and innocence in world almost completely lacking those qualities. Though the friends initially mean to take advantage of him, the Pirate's goodness wins them over. The Pirate is always accompanied by his five dogs, which comfort and protect him, giving him a sixth sense to incoming danger.

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Tito Ralph -  Whenever the paisanos of Tortilla Flat go a little to far in their mischief, they are put in the hands of Tito Ralph, the jailor. He was made jailor because as a youth he had been a guest in the prison so often that he knew how it was supposed to be run better than any other man. He is not part of the inner circle of Danny's friends, but a good friend nonetheless.
Johnny Pom-Pom -  Though he is not a member of Danny's inner circle of friends, Johnny Pom-Pom helps the group in many parts of the book. He is just another paisano trying to scrape his way through life and helping his friends when he can.
Mr. Torrelli -  As the bootlegger and tradesman of Tortilla flat, it is only natural that Torrelli be the target for a lot of the paisanos frustration. He is a wealthy man, and being the holder of the town's wine supply, he is probably also the most powerful man in town.
Mrs. Torrelli  -  When Mr. Torrelli is not around, the paisanos have to go through Mrs. Torrelli to get their wine and other goods. Often she barters commodities other than money, despite Mr. Torrelli's efforts to keep her pure. For this weakness and for her plumpness, Mrs. Torrelli is called Butter Duck by the paisanos.
Cornelia Ruiz -  Tortilla Flat's primary source of gossip, Cornelia is a very restless girl. She goes through husbands almost as quickly as the paisanos go through gallons of wine. When Danny's friends talk, they often find fault in Cornelia's activities, but they would all be more than willing to get involved with her.
Teresina Cortez -  Mother of nine with another on the way, Cornelia is one of those people with a propensity for the "distillation of children." With her mother, Cornelia has a tough time maintaining her ever-growing household. To get by, she feeds the children an unwavering diet of tortillas and beans.
The Caporal  -  The Caporal is one of the few characters that really teach the paisanos a lesson. Though a superior officer ruined his life, he has no thoughts of revenge, but only wishes for the well being of his baby.
Tia Ignacia -  A forty-five year old widow of mostly Indian blood, Tia Ignacia is not afraid to ask for what she wants. She is not the least bit subtle in her romantic pursuits of Big Joe.
Dolores "Sweets" Ramirez  -  There is not much for a single, landowning woman to do in Tortilla Flat except pursue men, and that is exactly how Sweets spends her days. She sits on her porch and waits for men to walk into her web like a spider. The man she really wants, however, is Danny.

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