Tortilla Flat

John Steinbeck

Chapters 6 & 7

Summary Chapters 6 & 7

Pilon realizes that he will have to make the Pirate comfortable by force and begins watching the Pirate. Still, he cannot discover the location of the secret stash. Finally, Pilon reveals his efforts to the rest of Danny's group. Jesus Maria, in his kindness, comes up with a solution, to invite the Pirate into their house. They do this, and the Pirate is overjoyed. They enjoy wine and conversation, and though the Pirate does not offer much to their talks, he enjoys the time immensely. Every day, the friends try to pressure the Pirate to turn over his secret, but he never does. They even follow him into the woods on two occasions, but the Pirate always manages to lose them. Finally, one day the friends return from looking for the treasure to find the Pirate back at the house with a smile on his face. He had realized that he was followed the last two nights and had brought the money back to the house for safekeeping. In his bag was almost $200, which he had promised to spend on a gold candlestick for San Francisco, whom the Pirate believed had saved one of his dogs. The Pirate was very pleased to have trusted his friends.


One suspicion that readers might jump to when they encounter the paisanos of Monterey is that they live the way they do because of lack of possessions. If this were true, then there would be nothing worth examining about their lifestyle because they themselves would abandon it if they could. Danny proves that this is not true, and that there is something more enduring than possession or lack of it in the paisano world. The conventional anger at the loss of his house is quickly replaced by an understanding of the worthlessness of transient things like houses when compared to spiritual things like friends. He then reaches an even more mature plateau; he feels secretly glad to be free of the burden of the house. Possession creates a sort of commitment, which creates a responsibility, which creates a cramp in the freedom that a paisano cherishes more than anything else. Owning two houses was too much for Danny. It is evident that he had already started to change because he had asked Pilon for the rent on his second house, something that the true Danny would never have wanted to do. With the second house out of the way and his position in life reduced from wealthy back to comfortable, where he wanted to be, Danny is able to live normally for a while, but in the end even the commitment represented by one house proves to be too much for Danny.

Though most of the time Pilon's charitable ideas result in new lows in human potential for wickedness, in the case of the Pirate, he truly does a good thing. It is impossible to say that, if Pilon had been successful in stealing the Pirate's money, he would have used it to make the Pirate comfortable, especially if Torrelli's was nearby, but as things end up, he gives the Pirate something far more valuable than all of his money could have bought. One of the most important messages in the book is revealed in the episode with the Pirate. The Pirate was completely comfortable in his previous mode of life, but he did not have friends. He had money, a reasonable place to sleep at night, and food to eat, but he lacked that fourth human need that truly makes one content. In his interactions with Danny's friends, the Pirate finds out that people cared about him, and he in turn learns to care about them. In being part of the group and at the feeling of acceptance that he enjoys, he is truly happy. It is something that the Pirate had not been able to achieve with his dogs, which were, of course, the most loyal of companions. Therein lies the thing that seems to separate humans from the rest of the animals for Steinbeck: the potential for two-way compassion that forms the basis of friendship. Though he is a lot slower mentally than the rest, the Pirate will be an integral part of the group for the rest of the book. No one looks down on him because of his strange ways. They allow him to enjoy life however he chooses. This is the beauty of the paisano way of life.