Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics
Do you think that Steinbeck intends for the paisanos to be viewed as model citizens or heroes? Why or why not?
Do you think that Pilon and the rest of the conspirators would really have helped the Pirate, or would they have taken advantage of him and spent his money greedily?
Why do you think Danny is the only one affected by the change in his life?
It is not talked about much in the text, but Danny is a little different from the rest of the paisanos. From when he is very young, Danny shuns the luxury offered to him by his parents. He sleeps in the forest instead of in the house of his father, and greatly prefers the taste of stolen food to the meals that he could get at home. In other words, he has tasted the comfortable life and it has disagreed with him. The other paisanos have never had such a chance, and therefore still believe that comfort is a good thing.
It is also clear that Danny is the most restless of his group of friends. He motivates Pilon and Big Joe to enlist in the Army. He is also always jumping from woman to woman though the rest of the paisanos rarely even give a girl a look unless they can steal something. There is also the obvious fact that as owner of the house, Danny is providing his friends with comfort. He is their leader, and with any leadership position comes responsibility. Whereas if any of the other paisanos were to be caught stealing, there is nothing the police could take from them, but if Danny went too far in his fun, they could take his house away.
Suggested Essay Topics
What role do women play in Tortilla Flat? Is what is acceptable for a man different from what is expected of a woman? Why do you think no women enter Danny's circle of friends?
Explain the role of each of the six friends in Danny's group. They all seem to excel at different things. Are they a synergetic group, or are they better off as individuals, as they end up?
Interestingly, Tortilla takes place during prohibition, but the police never seem to do anything about Torrelli's booming business. Why do you think that is so? Discuss the role of the law in the town in general.
It appears as if work was always available to the paisanos at the squid docks or elsewhere. They could have made some sort of arrangement for one person to work every day so that they could always have wine. Why do you think they don't work more often?
Tito Ralph and Johnny Pom-Pom join Danny's group late in the story. What do you think they add to the group?
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