The Tortilla Curtain

by

T. Coraghessan Boyle

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The Tortilla Curtain: Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narration shifts to Kyra’s perspective. It is seven o’clock in the evening and she is on her way to the 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 Arroyo Blanco Estates about “the wall issue,” along with Erna Jardine and Selda Cherrystone. Jack Jardine had called her two days after Osbert was killed by the coyote and convinced Kyra by saying, “I don’t want to make this any more painful for you than it already is, but if [the coyotes] can’t see the dog or cat or whatever, there’d be no reason for them to try scaling the wall, you follow me?” Kyra had agreed almost immediately, thinking that it was possible that “those hateful sneaking puppy-killing things” might even pose a threat to her son, Jordan.
The most important feature of this passage is the way it tracks the subtle shifts in Kyra’s logic. While Kyra does not seem to be conflating coyotes and Mexican immigrants in the way Delaney did in his column, she is exaggerating. There is no evidence that coyotes would pose a threat to six-year-old Jordan. Nevertheless, Kyra is so distraught over the death of her second dog that she will accept any plausible reason as justification for building a wall. Later in the novel, Delaney will take this pattern of misdirecting frustration to the extreme.
Themes
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 about blacks. It’s about exclusion, division, hate. You think Jack gives a damn about coyotes?” Delaney tried to prohibit Kyra from working on the committee but “she defied him” and set to work that night, sleeping in Jordan’s room later instead of with Delaney.
Delaney’s protestations about Kyra joining the wall committee are ironic given that the column he recently wrote was so clearly a metaphor about Mexicans. The passage is also significant because it illustrates the power of prejudice to divide—not only “outsiders” from “insiders,” but also insiders from one another.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Kyra reflects on all of this as she 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 outraged, and finally just plain frightened” to find graffiti on the side of the house that reads “Pinche Puta” (fucking whore).
While it is never definitively confirmed, it is likely that Navidad and his unnamed friend are responsible for this graffiti. Their choice of words disturbingly mirrors the insult that Cándido often hurls at América—that of being a whore. This detail reveals the pervasiveness of misogyny.
Themes
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 overhears Jack Jr. and another boy telling racist, misogynistic jokes about Mexican women. He realizes that Jordan will probably grow up to be like these boys. “That’s what he’d tried to tell Kyra over this wall business,” Delaney thinks. “It might keep them out, but look what it keeps in.” Delaney finds himself wishing he’d never moved to California in the first place.
The jokes that Jack Jr. and his friend tell are explicit and incredibly demeaning to Mexican women. This is a rare moment in which Delaney is clear-sighted and perceptive about the infectious nature of racism: he recognizes that his stepson, Jordan, will adopt similarly bigoted views as he grows up in the community of Arroyo Blanco.
Themes
Anger, Hatred, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
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Feeling “depressed and out of sorts,” Delaney heads home. He dreads being alone (Jordan is at his maternal grandmother’s house and Kyra is out working). He reflects on his marriage to Kyra; Delaney desperately wants to have a baby but Kyra “[won’t] hear of it.” As Delaney is walking home, he runs into a man who introduces himself as Todd Sweet. Delaney recognizes the man as someone who spoke out against the gate at the community meeting, where Delaney waved around his dog’s leg.
The detail about Delaney wanting to have a baby is important because it contextualizes the strain in his and Kyra’s marriage that has been worsening ever since Sacheverell was killed by the coyote.
Themes
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 wall at the community meeting the following week. Delaney feels conflicted—he is morally opposed to the wall, but he knows his home life will continue to suffer if he takes a stand against Kyra. He is close to agreeing to help Sweet argue against the wall but then he spots the same music-blasting car he saw earlier in the neighborhood and he “hesitate[s].” Delaney tells Sweet he will call him and walks away.
Delaney exhibits reluctance about speaking out against the wall in the same way that he earlier hesitated to speak out about the gate. This time, he reasons that voicing his opinion would cause stress at home. Still, Delaney is finding excuses not to be in the awkward position of going against the grain in his community.
Themes
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Continuing 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 the canyon, and he suddenly realizes this must be the same person Kyra saw on the Da Ros property. Delaney confronts José and tells him, “This is private property. You don’t belong here.”
Delaney’s aggressiveness here contrasts with the backseat role he adopted when Kyra confronted the dog owner in the restaurant parking lot. Now, Delaney feels he is on his “home turf” and this energizes him to confront Navidad. This almost primal instinct to protect his “territory” will grow stronger in Delaney as he unravels in the upcoming chapters.
Themes
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José insists that he is delivering “flies,” but Delaney is now in a rage, insisting that he will call the police. “The man [is] a thief,” he thinks, “a liar, the stinking occupant of a stinking sleeping bag in the state forest, a trespasser, a polluter, a Mexican.” José holds up a stack of fliers to prove his point, and Delaney is “so devastated he [can’t] speak.” As José walks away, Delaney finds himself wondering “what [is] happening to him.” When he looks down at the flier in his hand he realizes it is a message from Jack Jardine about the wall.
Delaney’s language is noteworthy here. He mentally rattles off several charges against Navidad; the fact that he lists “Mexican” last suggests that this is the worst possible insult he could hurl. This illustrates how far Delaney has come in terms of voicing his bigotry. Still, Delaney is in control enough to realize that something terrible is “happening to him.”
Themes
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