The Tortilla Curtain

by

T. Coraghessan Boyle

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The Tortilla Curtain: Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narration shifts to América’s perspective. She is still waiting at the wall for Cándido to return. For the first fifteen minutes, she enjoys observing her surroundings: “the city [is] like a movie playing before her eyes.” However, the longer she waits the more anxious she becomes. After an hour and a half, América gets up to look for Cándido. The sun is setting, and América is devastated by the reality of her life. “She was a fool to have left [Mexico],” she thinks, “a fool to have listened to the stories.”
For the first time, América’s faith in the American Dream appears to waver. It dawns on her that this Dream is, at least in part, an illusion. This passage simultaneously illustrates both América’s youthful naiveté and her perceptiveness.
Themes
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Unable to find her husband, América returns to the wall. Night has fallen and men are beginning to walk the streets; América tries her best to “[withdraw] into herself […] where nobody could touch her.” At midnight, Cándido returns. He has been beaten and robbed of all his money. Thinking of “the woods, of the canyon, of that shitpile of sticks,” América begins to wish she were dead.
América’s feelings toward the canyon are significant because they show how her relationship to nature is a mirror of her inner emotions. Because of her traumatic experience in the canyon, she thinks of the place as a prison.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The narration shifts to Cándido’s perspective. He is incredibly angry, and blames himself for having trusted the man who beat and robbed him. Cándido plans to find a gas station so he can wash the blood from his face in the restroom. Then, to his chagrin, he realizes he will have to dig through the garbage at a fast-food restaurant to find something for him and América to eat.
This passage demonstrates Cándido’s grit, but also his persistent tendency to personalize his misfortune. He thinks he was robbed because he is cursed—when, really, if he’d been in a less desperate situation and able to think more clearly he probably would have realized the man who robbed him was a con artist.
Themes
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
The narration shifts to América’s perspective. Though she is exhausted, América follows Cándido to the gas station and then to a KFC located off the canyon road. She feels “scared, angry, defeated, full of pity and hate.” In the back of the restaurant, América is overwhelmed by rage when she realizes Cándido’s plan is to dig through the trash. “Even at their lowest,” she thinks, “even in Tijuana in the dump they’d been able to scrape together a few centavos to buy steamed corn and caldo from the street vendors.” América refuses to eat from the garbage but Cándido tells her, “You’re going to need it to keep up your strength.”
This passage underscores the stark reality of the Rincóns’ difficult life. América is horrified that here in the States she is forced to eat out of a garbage can, when this is something she never had to resort to in Mexico. América’s passionate refusal to eat (though it is implied she eventually does) contrasts with Cándido’s resigned determination to do whatever it takes to survive. While Cándido’s approach may be more practical, América’s commitment to preserving a sense of her dignity is another example of how she insists on maintaining her agency, humanity, and hope.
Themes
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
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