The Tortilla Curtain

by

T. Coraghessan Boyle

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Delaney Mossbacher Character Analysis

Delaney is Kyra’s husband and the stepfather of Jordan. Delaney leads a very comfortable, upper-middle-class life in the private community of Arroyo Blanco Estates in a suburb of Los Angeles. Of the novel’s four main characters, the narrative follows Delaney’s perspective most closely. The changes he undergoes are also the most dramatic and carefully detailed of any character in the novel, as he transforms from a moderately liberal-minded person to a paranoid racist bent on defending his family and community from what he perceives to be the threat of various intruders, from coyotes to Mexican immigrants. A nature writer and New York native, Delaney spends much of his time writing about the flora and fauna of California. He is a self-described “liberal humanist,” but from the very beginning of the novel Delaney clearly demonstrates his inherent racial prejudices, offering only twenty dollars to a gravely wounded Cándido after hitting him with his car. In the beginning of the novel, Delaney works hard to navigate this cognitive dissonance between his stated values and his instinctual fear of the other, and seems invested in challenging his own biases, but as the novel progresses he becomes more and more obsessed with destroying Cándido, whom he feels has ruined his life. As Delaney succumbs to bigotry and a victim mentality, he becomes a less sympathetic character and the narration more heavily ironizes his twisted perspective.

Delaney Mossbacher Quotes in The Tortilla Curtain

The The Tortilla Curtain quotes below are all either spoken by Delaney Mossbacher or refer to Delaney Mossbacher. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Tortilla Curtain published in 1996.
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

He thought of the development he’d grown up in, the fenceless expanse of lawns, the shared space, the deep lush marshy woods where he’d first discovered ferns, frogs, garter snakes, the whole shining envelope of creation. There was nothing like that anymore. Now there were fences. Now there were gates.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher
Related Symbols: The Wall
Page Number: 41-2
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

“You heard Jack Cherrystone speak to the issue, and nobody’s credentials can touch Jack’s as far as being liberal is concerned, but this society isn’t what it was—and it won’t be until we get control of the borders.”

The borders. Delaney took an involuntary step backwards, all those dark disordered faces rising up from the streetcorners and freeway onramps to mob his brain, all of them crying out their human wants through mouths full of rotten teeth. “That’s racist, Jack, and you know it.”

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher (speaker), Jack Jardine (speaker)
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

He felt anger and shame at the same time—the man was a bum, that was all, hassling somebody else now, and yet the look of him, the wordless plea in his eyes and the arm in a sling and the side of his face layered with scab like old paint brought Delaney’s guilt back to the surface, a wound that refused to heal. His impulse was to intercede, to put an end to it, and yet in some perverse way he wanted to see this dark alien little man crushed and obliterated, out of his life forever.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher, Cándido Rincón
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

What he wanted to tell her was how angry he was, how he hadn’t wanted a new car […] how he felt depressed, disheartened, as if his luck had turned back and he was sinking into an imperceptible hole that deepened centimeter by centimeter each hour of the day. There’d been a moment there, handing over the keys to the young Latino, when he felt a deep shameful stab of racist resentment—did they all have to be Mexican?—that went against everything he’d believed in all his life. He wanted to tell her about that, that above all else, but he couldn’t.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

Kyra looked down at her plate as if uncertain how to go on. “Remember I told you about all those people gathering there on the streetcorners—day laborers?”

“Mexicans,” Delaney said, and there was no hesitation anymore, no reluctance to identify people by their ethnicity, no overlay of liberal-humanist guilt. Mexicans, there were Mexicans everywhere.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher (speaker), Kyra Menaker-Mossbacher (speaker)
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

But where were these people supposed to go? Back to Mexico? Delaney doubted it, knowing what he did about migratory animal species and how one population responded to being displaced by another. It made for war, for violence and killing, until one group had decimated the other and reestablished its claim to the prime hunting, breeding or grazing grounds. It was a sad fact, but true.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

The wall. Of course. He should have guessed. Ninety percent of the community was already walled in, tireless dark men out there applying stucco under conditions that would have killed anybody else, and now the last link was coming to Delaney, to his own dogless yard, hemming him in, obliterating his view—protecting him despite himself. And he’d done nothing to protest it, nothing at all.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher
Related Symbols: The Wall
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 3 Quotes

Delaney felt a thrill of triumph and hate—he couldn’t suppress it—and then both cops were bending over the suspects to clamp the handcuffs round their wrists, and the tall Mexican, Delaney’s special friend, was protesting his innocence in two languages. The son of a bitch. The jerk. The arsonist. It was all Delaney could do to keep from wading in and kicking him in the ribs.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher (speaker), José Navidad
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 7 Quotes

He never gave a thought as to what he was going to do with the Mexican once he caught him—that didn’t matter. None of it mattered. All that mattered was this, was finding him, rooting him out of his burrow and counting his teeth and his toes and the hairs on his head and noting it all down for the record.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher, Cándido Rincón
Page Number: 347
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 8 Quotes

He was beyond cursing, beyond grieving, numbed right through to the core of him. All that, yes. But when he saw the white face surge up out of the black swirl of the current and the white hand grasping at the tiles, he reached down and took hold of it.

Related Characters: Delaney Mossbacher, Cándido Rincón
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Tortilla Curtain PDF

Delaney Mossbacher Character Timeline in The Tortilla Curtain

The timeline below shows where the character Delaney Mossbacher appears in The Tortilla Curtain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
While driving on the canyon road on his way to the recycling center, Delaney Mossbacher hits Cándido Rincón with his car. Delaney searches the nearby bushes and discovers the... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
At the recycling center, Delaney reflects on the accident. He concludes that Cándido must have refused medical care because he... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
...was on his way back from the grocery store after leaving the labor exchange when Delaney hit him with his car. Half-lucid, he recalls being stuck in a garbage dump in... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
The Natural World Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
The narration returns to Delaney’s perspective. Four days after hitting Cándido, Delaney is preparing breakfast for his stepson, Jordan. He... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Kyra enters the kitchen and converses briefly with Delaney. The two then hear a prolonged scream from outside and run out to find a... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
That evening, Delaney attends a neighborhood meeting for the people living at Arroyo Blanco Estates. The meeting is... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Delaney listens as various community members, including Jim Shirley and Jack Cherrystone, comment on the gate... (full context)
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Later that night, Delaney sits outside the community meeting as the vote is held, feeling foolish about his behavior.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. He is walking home from the community meeting, enjoying the evening air and the... (full context)
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Delaney and Kyra begin to have sex. Mid-intercourse, Kyra asks Delaney to tell her once and... (full context)
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
...of her feet to the crown of her head.” She thinks about going home to Delaney and Jordan but realizes that “she [doesn’t] want to leave [the Da Ros house], not... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. Having buried Sacheverell’s remains earlier that day, Delaney is now working from home on... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration switches to Delaney’s perspective. It is six o’clock in the evening and he is cooking dinner when he... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Delaney insists that Jack’s logic is racist, but Jack continues to argue that immigrants “coming in... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Before leaving the store, Delaney “concedes” to Jack that he accepts the gate because “none of us want urban crime... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration returns to Delaney’s perspective. It is the morning after he saw Cándido in the grocery store parking lot... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Delaney decides to forgo his usual path through the main part of the canyon and instead... (full context)
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
Delaney continues on his hike and soon hears voices. He thinks, “These were transients, bums, criminals,... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Delaney discerns that the voices are speaking in Spanish and he begins to feel “angry, like... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Rankled by the lack of “privacy” in the canyon, Delaney walks back uphill to the canyon road only to find that his car is missing.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Cándido’s perspective, and jumps backward in time. Cándido has just seen Delaney in the supermarket parking lot and he feels as though he is “being haunted by... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. His car having been stolen, Delaney is back at Kenny Grissom’s dealership. Grissom tells... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Delaney buys a new car from Kenny and heads to his lunch date with Kyra. When... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Kyra and Delaney eat a quick lunch because Kyra needs to leave to close a house. In the... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
In the parking lot, Delaney comes to think of Kyra as “glorious in her outrage, a saint, a crusader.” For... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Leaving the restaurant, Delaney finds himself, once again, “in a rage.” He decides to go for another hike in... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...the workers; from his limp and his swollen face she recognizes him as the man Delaney hit and she feels “a space open up inside her, a great sad empty space... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...house, musing about how the shopping cart could’ve gotten there. She thinks about the men Delaney told her he saw camping in the canyon and feels panicked that perhaps people are... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. It is a mid-August evening and Delaney is preparing dinner outside for his family.... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
Kyra’s announcement makes Delaney remember an evening he spent with Jack Jardine two nights prior. Jack Jardine took Delaney... (full context)
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
The narration returns to the dinner scene, with Delaney reflecting on the fact that “Kyra had cleaned up the corner of Shoup and Ventura,... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
Delaney suggests that he, Kyra, and Jordan go see a movie. The family is discussing the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
This chapter is an excerpt of Delaney’s column, “Pilgrim at Topanga Creek.” In this column Delaney explores different approaches to managing the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
After agreeing to join the wall committee, Kyra shared the news with Delaney. Delaney was furious, saying: “This isn’t about coyotes, don’t kid yourself. It’s about Mexicans, it’s... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. He is outside playing paddleball at the Arroyo Blanco Estates community center when he... (full context)
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Feeling “depressed and out of sorts,” Delaney heads home. He dreads being alone (Jordan is at his maternal grandmother’s house and Kyra... (full context)
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Sweet tells Delaney that he and his wife are trying to convince their neighbors to vote against the... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Continuing homeward, Delaney turns onto his street and sees a man in a backwards baseball cap (José Navidad)... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
José insists that he is delivering “flies,” but Delaney is now in a rage, insisting that he will call the police. “The man [is]... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. It is now November and Delaney finds himself missing the East and depressed by... (full context)
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
That evening, Delaney accompanies Kyra to the Da Ros place to close it, as he has done every... (full context)
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
On the way home, Delaney and Kyra stop at the supermarket to purchase food for Thanksgiving. Delaney’s spirits begin to... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. It is Thanksgiving Day and Delaney and Kyra are dressing for a cocktail party... (full context)
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
The conversation shifts to the wall, and Delaney continues to feel uncomfortable, though he doesn’t say much. The party continues until suddenly a... (full context)
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. Though he does not consider himself an “alarmist,” Delaney rushes Kyra home to check... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. Delaney, Kyra, and Jordan are gathered “behind [a] police barrier at the top of... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
As he is talking to and sharing some Scotch with Jack Cherrystone, Delaney notices José Navidad and his friend. He “[doesn’t] try to correct himself, not now, not... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...tackling the men to the ground, and as José “protest[s] his innocence in two languages” Delaney feels so angry that “it [is] all [he can] do to keep from wading in... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Members of the crowd start yelling racial slurs at the men, and when Delaney makes eye contact with José, José spits at him. In response, Delaney jumps José and... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
...homes; the winds have shifted and the fire has changed direction and ultimately been contained. Delaney is feeling “hungover and contrite,” and he remembers going to an abortion clinic with his... (full context)
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Back at home, Delaney finds his house completely unscathed. As the family settles back in, Jordan searches frantically for... (full context)
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
...hand she is holding Dominick Flood’s ankle bracelet, which she has discovered in her purse. Delaney realizes that Flood charmed his mother-in-law for the sole purpose of using her to escape... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
...his way across several yards until he arrives in the Mossbachers’ yard. There, he uses Delaney’s stepladder to mount the wall. As he drags his materials up the hill, Cándido thinks... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. He is just returning home with Jordan, having taken Kit to the airport. Kyra... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Delaney convinces Kyra that they should “try and forget” about the fire, and suggests that they... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Jack takes Delaney and Kyra to the wall, which has been tagged with spray-painted symbols. Jack describes the... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
...and the rainy season has begun. Dame Edith and Dominick Flood are both still missing. Delaney has begun to stake out the wall every night with binoculars and a trip-wire camera.... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Delaney spends three hours a night for a full week staking out the wall. He feels... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
...cans to redeem.” As he is walking, a car suddenly swerves onto the shoulder and Delaney jumps out with a look of “pure malice” on his face. Cándido freezes and Delaney... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. He has just spotted Cándido on his way back from the plant nursery—“this Mexican,... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Delaney exchanges insurance information with the woman who swerved into his car. When a police officer... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. He is still walking up the canyon road, tracking Cándido—“his quarry.” He is determined... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Delaney makes his way home to pick up a flashlight. As he is walking through the... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Having loaded the gun, Delaney assures himself that “he would never use the thing, never fire it, never—but he was... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Delaney lets himself into the Cherrystones’ house to use their darkroom. He develops the six new... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
On his hands and knees, Delaney scrambles up the muddy hills. He feels that “the universe [has been] reduced to the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...a straitjacket and lock him up in the asylum.” América tells Cándido that she thinks Delaney is a racist. “Maybe he hates us because we’re Mexican,” she says. “How could anybody... (full context)
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
...burned, that’s what did it, because of—[…] because of those men.” Before Cándido can answer, Delaney’s face appears at the door of the shelter and América is horrified to see that... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective, and slightly backward in time. He hears voices on the hill and is “outraged,”... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
...“beyond cursing, beyond grieving, numbed right through to the core him.” Still, when he sees Delaney’s face in the water “and the white hand grasping at the tiles” of the post... (full context)