The Tortilla Curtain

by

T. Coraghessan Boyle

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The Tortilla Curtain: Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narration shifts to Delaney’s perspective. It is now November and Delaney finds himself missing the East and depressed by the “dismal reality” of autumn in Los Angeles (particularly the dust and the Santa Ana winds). He is at home working on research for a new column when the doorbell rings. A crew of men in hard hats has arrived and needs access to the Mossbachers’ property to continue their work erecting the wall, which is already ninety percent finished. Delaney tries to continue writing while the men work but he has trouble concentrating and feels “as if he were under siege.” He is frustrated by the fact that the wall, which will have no gates, means he will not have direct access to the hills surrounding Arroyo Blanco. “How [can] he work?” he thinks. He feels he is being “buried alive.”
The way Delaney personalizes the building of the wall—as if he, specifically, were being targeted—parallels the way Cándido feels about his “pinche luck.” Both men have the tendency of seeing themselves as the center of the action in their lives. The hyperbolic quality of Delaney’s thoughts here—he compares his situation to being under siege or buried alive, as if someone were actually making an attempt on his life—highlights how self-absorbed Delaney is as a character.
Themes
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
That evening, Delaney accompanies Kyra to the Da Ros place to close it, as he has done every night since “the graffiti incident.” In the car, Delaney fumes, complaining that he “can’t walk out of [his] own yard. Kyra cheerfully shows Delaney a stepladder she bought for him and Delaney realizes that the wall will help keep his neighbors from hiking, too, meaning he will “have the hills to himself.” He is “exhilarated” by the thought, but does not feel like revealing this to Kyra.
Delaney continues to demonstrate his egotism in his realization that the wall will effectively privatize his access to the natural landscape. This fuels Delaney’s conception of himself as a “pilgrim,” and will only increase his sense of entitlement as the novel moves forward.
Themes
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon
On the way home, Delaney and Kyra stop at the supermarket to purchase food for Thanksgiving. Delaney’s spirits begin to lift; he wonders, “How could he have let such a petty thing come between them?” He and Kyra kiss in the middle of the supermarket. Later, at the checkout, an employee informs Delaney and Kyra that their purchase, because it exceeds fifty dollars, entitles them to a free twelve-pound turkey. Though they already have an eighteen-pound turkey at home, Kyra accepts the free one.
This passage establishes the fact that the supermarket is giving away free turkeys to customers who purchase more than fifty dollars’ worth of groceries. On a thematic level, this passage evokes the ideals of American suburban life: Delaney feels his marriage has been revitalized and he revels in being surrounded by the bounty of the supermarket. It also invokes the idea of the rich getting richer.
Themes
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
The narration shifts to Cándido’s perspective. He and América are again living in the canyon. América has been catatonic for days, having had a breakdown when Cándido forced her to move back to the canyon. Cándido is worried about the upcoming rainy season and “[beginning] to think he hate[s]” his wife. The one piece of good news is that Cándido has found relatively consistent work for a man named Señor Willis. Though Cándido is worried about the future, he is hopeful that he and América are “on the upswing.”
Continued references to the rainy season are important on a plot level because they foreshadow the flood that concludes the novel. Thematically this passage is noteworthy because it demonstrates that Cándido is unwilling to probe the trauma that América has gone through.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Belonging and the American Dream Theme Icon
Violence Against Women Theme Icon
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Cándido is on the way to the supermarket to purchase food for Thanksgiving, or “El Tenksgeevee.” In the checkout line, two young men in front of Cándido are offered their free turkey, but instead deposit it in Cándido’s arms; one of them says, “Happy Thanksgiving, dude.” Cándido feels “dazed” by the gift but as he heads back into the canyon he begins to feel elated. América is pleased by the turkey, and as he works at building a fire, Cándido feels “as happy as he’d ever been.” Then the wind “pluck[s] the fire out of its bed of coals and with a roar as loud as all the furnaces of hell set[s] it dancing in the treetops.”
The fact that the fire starts as a result of Cándido’s good fortune of being gifted a turkey is one of the rare moments in the novel where the idea that Cándido is cursed seems plausible. The fire is one of the most important plot developments in the novel, affecting both the Mossbachers and the Rincóns. On a thematic level, the power of the fire illustrates the disregard of the natural world for the suffering (or the joy) of humans.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Fate, Luck, and Egotism Theme Icon