The Tortilla Curtain

by

T. Coraghessan Boyle

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José Navidad Character Analysis

The villain of the novel, José and his unnamed companion (sometimes referred to as the Indian) rape América when they encounter her on a trail leading into the canyon. José’s name is mentioned only once in the novel; other characters describe him as having light eyes and wearing a backwards baseball cap. José is perceived as sinister by nearly all the characters who encounter him, regardless of their race. White characters like Delaney refer to José with racial slurs such as “wetback,” while Mexican characters like Cándido and América refer to him as “half-a-gringo,” due to his light skin. José belongs neither to the white American community nor the Mexican community, and as such is felt to be all the more menacing by the book’s characters. Thus, he is a highly symbolic character, representing the abstract notion of “the other” as something to be feared.

José Navidad Quotes in The Tortilla Curtain

The The Tortilla Curtain quotes below are all either spoken by José Navidad or refer to José Navidad. 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 6 Quotes

His skin was light, so light he could almost have passed for one of them, but it was his eyes that gave him away, hard burnished unblinking eyes the color of calf’s liver. He’d been damaged somehow, she could see that, damaged in the way of a man who has to scrape and grovel and kiss the hind end of some irrecusable yankee boss, and his eyes showed it, jabbing out at the world like two weapons. He was Mexican, all right.

Related Characters: América Rincón, José Navidad
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

There, in the quickening night, with his dirty fingers inside her as if they belonged there and the Indian waiting his turn, he stopped to put a stick of gum in his mouth and casually drop the wrapper on the exposed skin of her back, no more concerned than if he were sitting on a stool in a bar.

Related Characters: América Rincón, José Navidad
Page Number: 141-2
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

All she could see was the image of those animals at the border, the half-a-gringo and his evil eyes and filthy insinuating fingers, the fat white man with his fat white hands, and she withdrew into herself, dwelled there deep inside where nobody could touch her. “Hey, baby,” they called when they saw her there trying to melt into the darkness, “hey, ruca, hey, sexy, ¿quieres joder conmigo?

Page Number: 234
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:
Get the entire The Tortilla Curtain LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Tortilla Curtain PDF

José Navidad Character Timeline in The Tortilla Curtain

The timeline below shows where the character José Navidad appears in The Tortilla Curtain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 6
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
The man introduces himself as José Navidad and asks América’s name. When she refuses to give it, he continues to flirt... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
...up the hill, where he comes suddenly upon a “tall pale man” carrying a bedroll (José Navidad) who asks him what the camping is like in the canyon. Cándido lies, saying... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...his day, are “ruined,” he thinks. Just then, a man in a backwards baseball cap (José Navidad) appears before Delaney. José says, “Hiking, huh? […] I’m hiking too. Me and my... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
...way down the trail into the canyon. When she arrives at the camp she finds José Navidad and his unnamed friend waiting for her. José says, “Buenas noches, señorita?—or should I... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...buyer?” she thinks. Just then she notices movement on the lawn and spots two men: José Navidad and his friend. She walks over to confront them without “[thinking] to be afraid.” (full context)
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
Kyra accuses the men of trespassing, but José’s demeanor quickly makes her nervous. When José questions whether Kyra owns the property, she lies... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
The narration switches to Cándido’s perspective, and backward in time to the day on which José Navidad raped América. It is the afternoon and Cándido is waiting alone in the labor... (full context)
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
...to know whether “that rico” (Jim Shirley) did this to her. América tells Cándido that José and his friend “took [her] money.” Cándido viciously questions América, repeatedly asking, “Is that all... (full context)
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
The narration shifts to América’s perspective. Since José Navidad raped her, América has been having burning and pain when she urinates. She wonders... (full context)
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
...her new clothes to Cándido and he responds by accosting her with questions about what José Navidad “took” from her. Cándido suspects that América was raped and the knowledge makes him... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
...for work. América insists that Cándido can’t leave her behind in the canyon, in case José Navidad and his friend return. Cándido maintains that América will be safe as long as... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...Da Ros house, reflecting on the fruitless report she filed with the sheriff’s department about José Navidad and his friend being on the property. In an hour Kyra will be canvassing... (full context)
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
...enters the Da Ros property. She still feels unnerved being there, after her run-in with José Navidad. As she makes her rounds of the property, she is “bewildered at first, then... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...homeward, Delaney turns onto his street and sees a man in a backwards baseball cap (José Navidad) crossing Jack Cherrystone’s lawn. Delaney recognizes the man as the “hiker” he encountered in... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
José insists that he is delivering “flies,” but Delaney is now in a rage, insisting that... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
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 ever again”... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
...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 begins punching him. The officer... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
...repentant, he [can’t] suppress a flare of outrage” when he thinks about the fact that José Navidad claimed to have been only “hiking” in the canyon. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...were burning everybody else out too.” Kyra reflects on the fact that the police held José Navidad and his friend but have since “let them go for lack of evidence.” She... (full context)
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
...have released “the Mexicans […] who burned down [her] house.” Delaney is also furious that José Navidad and his friend have been released. He is “frightened” by the level of hatred... (full context)