Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck’s first popular success, is a short novel depicting the clash of paisano (combined Spanish, Indian, and Mexican) cultural identity with traditional European, capitalist culture in twentieth century California. The novel shows the seemingly inevitable obliteration of older, communal paisano values by the American capitalistic system.
Initially, a group of paisano young men, led by Danny, live their carefree, nearly possession-free life of drinking wine, engaging in sexual and other escapades, and sleeping off the effects of both in the Monterey jail. Their human closeness and joy in living are unmistakable, but then Danny inherits property. Ownership is the essence of competitive, community-destroying Western capitalism. Danny’s friend Pillon immediately predicts that Danny, having been “lifted above thy friends. . . . wilt forget thy friends who shared everything with thee, even their brandy.” Danny objects that he will continue to share everything, even his houses, with Pillon’s response that “it would be a world wonder if it were so.”
For a time, the “world wonder” exists. Like King Arthur’s knights, an analogy expressly drawn by Steinbeck, Danny and his friends commit themselves to sharing all and helping others, adhering to traditional paisano values. Thus, when Pillon and Jesus Maria unintentionally burn one of Danny’s houses, Danny is secretly happy because the economic...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Danny returns home from serving in World War I to find that his grandfather has bequeathed him two houses on Tortilla Flat. The responsibility of ownership depresses Danny, and a drunken spree of window breaking and the jail sentence it earns him do little to relieve his malaise. Then he runs into his friend Pilon, who moves into the larger of the two houses with him, agreeing to pay fifteen dollars a month in rent. After an argument, Pilon moves into Danny’s smaller house. The pair share wine, women, and worry. Ownership plagues Danny.
The rent Pilon that never intended to pay bothers him, but his troubles seem to be over when he strikes a deal with Pablo. Pablo agrees to move in with Pilon for fifteen dollars a month rent—money he never can or will pay.
Danny enjoys a brief affair with his neighbor, Mrs. Morales, who owns her own house and has two hundred dollars in the bank. He wants to give her a present but has no money. The suggestion that he cut squids for a day laborer’s wages incenses him, and he demands rent from Pilon and Pablo, who stalk away in anger. They find Jesus Maria Corcoran lying under a bush with a bottle of wine and learn that he has recently acquired a fortune of seven dollars. Pilon and Pablo agree to rent him space in their house for fifteen dollars a month. Masters at rationalizing self-interest into altruism, they talk Jesus Maria out of his money and buy Mrs. Morales a bottle of wine, which they then drink...
(The entire section is 1205 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
Danny, a mixed-race “paisano” from Monterey, California, joins the army with his friends Pilon and Big Joe Portagee. Pilon and Big Joe are placed in the infantry, but Danny is assigned to Texas to break mules for the duration of the war.
When he comes home from the army, Danny learns that his grandfather (the “viejo”) has died and left him two houses. He feels weighted down with the responsibility of ownership, so he buys a gallon of wine and gets drunk.
He becomes violent and abusive to the Italian fishermen on the wharf. They dismiss him good-naturedly, which upsets Danny. He goes down the street and breaks windows. He is arrested, but since he has just been released from the army, he is given only thirty days in jail rather than the usual six months.
Danny spends his time in jail drawing obscene pictures on his cell wall. Mostly he is all alone and lonely, but occasionally a drunk is put in with him to sober up.
Danny catches bedbugs, kills them, and mounts them on the cell wall, labeling them with the names of local government officials. He does not name them after the justice of the peace or the police since he has a great respect for the law.
Tito Ralph comes to visit him, bearing two bottles of wine. An hour later, Tito Ralph goes out for more wine and Danny goes with him. They go to the local bar, Torelli’s, until Torelli throws them out.
Danny goes off to the pine woods and sleeps while Tito Ralph goes back to the jail and reports Danny’s escape. When Danny awakens, he is determined to hide all day to escape rearrest. He goes to a restaurant and asks for scraps for his dog. When the manager goes off to wrap up the scraps, Danny steals two slices of ham, four eggs, a lamb chop, and a fly swatter.
He trades some of the stolen food for a bottle of grappa and heads back to the woods to cook his supper. He spies his friend Pilon, who seems to be hiding something in his coat. Danny approaches him even though Pilon is trying to avoid him. Pilon asks Danny how he knew that he had a bottle of brandy in his coat. Danny acts surprised at this news. Pilon tells him that it is his duty to see that Danny does not drink at all.
They build a fire in the woods and cook the ham and drink the brandy. Soon, Danny and Pilon are overcome with loneliness and talk of their lost friends. Arthur Morales is dead, having been killed in France; Pablo is in jail...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Dropped off by Danny’s grandfather’s lawyer, Danny and Pilon examine one of the houses Danny inherited. It is dilapidated but has some promising features such as flowers growing in the front yard. Pilon declares it to be bigger and better than the other one, so this is where they will live.
As they enter, they see that it remains as the viejo left it. It has three rooms, a bed, and a stove. Pilon believes that they will be happy there, but Danny is now burdened with the ownership of property. Pilon turns on the water faucet, but no water comes out. He says that Danny must have the water turned on. Danny tells him that he wishes Pilon had inherited it so that he could come to live with him instead.
As Danny goes to Monterey to have the water turned on, Pilon investigates the back yard. It is littered with trash and weeds but has some fruit trees and chicken coops that Pilon finds promising. He looks over the fence to Mrs. Morales’ back yard and sees some chickens. He makes some holes in the fence, kindly thinking that the hens would like to make nests in the tall weeds.
When Danny returns, he is irate that the city wants a three dollar deposit for the water. Pilon figures that three dollars is three dollars of wine, but Danny says that they do not have the three dollars to begin with.
As the afternoon passes, Danny tells Pilon to clean up the back yard and cut down the weeds, but Pilon tells him of his plan concerning Mrs. Morales’ chickens. Danny agrees, grateful that he has Pilon there, but Pilon begins to feel that he is getting into Danny’s debt as he goes out to find food. He follows a rooster down the road, managing to catch and kill it in the woods. He dresses it there, believing that no feathers, head, or feet should come into the house as the chicken could be identified by those.
The two friends spend the evening pleasantly. There is a small fire of pine cones, and the rain leaks through the roof only in places where no one wants to sit anyway. Danny ponders his ownership of two houses, stating that he cannot sleep in both. Pilon suggests that he rent one himself for ten dollars a month. Danny says it is a fine house worth fifteen dollars a month. Pilon agrees, even though he has never had fifteen dollars at one time.
(The entire section is 425 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
The next day, Pilon moves into his rented house, which is similar to Danny’s house only smaller. He feels that he is moving up the social scale now that he is renting a house. He never pays the fifteen dollars rent, but neither does Danny ask for it. The two friends are often together, especially when one of them has found food or wine.
One evening, Pilon is given a dollar by a man at the hotel to fetch him four bottles of ginger ale. Pilon takes the dollar and buys a gallon of wine, with which he lures two girls into his rented house. Danny passes by and hears the noise, so he enters and shares the wine and one of the girls.
Afterward, Danny and Pilon fight, with Danny head-butting one of the girls, who takes off running. The other girl leaves as well, but not before stealing two cooking pots. Danny and Pilon discuss the perfidy of women.
The fact that he has not paid any rent bothers Pilon to the point that he works for Chin Kee cleaning squid for a day, for which he earns two dollars. He intends to take the money to Danny as partial payment for his rent, but he ends up buying two gallons of wine instead, thinking this will show Danny how grateful he is.
As he walks toward Danny’s hand with a gallon of wine under each arm, he feels clean and righteous. He watches the sea gulls, which make him think of the tamales that Mrs. Pastano makes, which makes him hungry. He sits on the curb and thinks of how drunk he could get on two bottles of wine.
He is surprised when his friend Pablo walks up, since the last he knew Pablo was in jailing for stealing a goose. Pablo says that he was let out on parole because he ate more than three men.
Pilon sees Pablo’s arrival as an escape from selfishness. He invites Pablo to his house to drink the wine. He suggests that Pablo sublet the house for fifteen dollars a month, with only Pilon’s bed reserved for the exclusive use of the “landlord.” Pablo agrees, although has no intention of paying the fifteen dollars. Pilon knows this, but at least he can tell Danny, should he ever ask for the rent, that he will give it to him as soon as he gets it from Pablo.
The two men slowly sink in sad nostalgia as they get progressively drunker.
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Pilon and Pablo discuss the news that Cornelia Ruiz cut up a black Mexican who tried to come into her house, not knowing that she had taken up with another man. Pablo says that she is not very steady, still buying masses for her father, whose life was so evil that he needs all the masses he can get.
Pablo tells Pilon that Charlie Meeler told him that Danny is with the Portagee girl, Rosa Martin. This causes Pilon to worry, saying that Portagee girls always want to marry and love money. If Danny marries her, he will want the rent money, which they still have not paid.
Talk of Danny reminds Pilon that Danny’s neighbor Mrs. Morales has chickens, and he would dearly love some eggs. Pilon and Pablo put on their shoes and walk toward Danny’s house. They find Danny on the porch and share the news about Cornelia and the black Mexican, which Danny has already heard.
Speaking of the untrustworthiness of women, Pilon mentions Rosa Martin, but Danny dismisses her, which relieves Pilon and Pablo’s fear of Danny wanting rent money. Pilon asks Danny about Mrs. Morales’s chickens, but Danny tells that they are all dead after Mrs. Morales gave them some beans. She sold the chickens to the butcher, having been told that they were no good to eat.
Danny says that he spent the previous night with her, stating that she is pretty in some lights and not so old, even if she is fifty. Danny is philosophical about her age, telling his friends that she is lively, owns her house, and has two hundred dollars in the bank. If he had a little money, Danny says, he would buy her a big box of candy.
Danny mentions the rent money that Pilon has never paid. Pilon gets angry and defensive but leaves with Pablo to get some money.
At the bottom of a ditch they find their friend Jesus Maria Corcoran, who is drunk. Jesus says that he found a rowboat washed up on the beach and sold it for seven dollars. He bought some wine and some underwear for Arabella Gross. Now he wants to buy her a silk bra.
He still has three dollars and a dime. On seeing the money, Pablo and Pilon convince him to rent a room at their house (for fifteen dollars a month) for the sake of his health. Jesus agrees but resists paying three dollars on account. He finally gives in and Pilon and Pablo take two dollars to give to Danny so that he can buy candy for Mrs. Morales.
On the way, they reason that Danny will eat...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Pablo and Pilon buy two gallons of wine but never make it to Danny’s with it. They sit under a bush at Torrelli’s and begin to drink it all. They justify this by telling each other that Danny does not handle wine very well, plus it might damage his health. The city of Monterey settles in for the evening as the sun sinks, with fishermen coming in and going out.
Pablo and Pilon finish the first gallon of wine when they see Torrelli leave his house and walk down the street toward the center of town. When he is out of sight, they go into the house to flirt with Mrs. Torrelli, calling her “Butter Duck” and taking liberties with her. She is flattered but slightly tousled by their attentions.
They go back under their rose bush to finish off the second gallon of wine. They wait anxiously for Torrelli to return, knowing that Italians take their marital relations seriously when it is convenient for them.
They speak of returning to their own house, but there is no wood for a fire on this cool evening. Pablo steals some wood from Torrelli’s wood pile and the two men return home. They build a fire in the stove, light a candle in honor of St. Francis, and drink the wine out of fruit jars. The candle gives a holiness to their evening.
They are wondering where Jesus Maria has gone when he returns home, beaten and bloody. He tells them he was beaten up by soldiers while he was with Arabella Gross drinking some whiskey he found. Arabella also joined in the beating after a while.
Jesus Maria still has the bra he planned to give Arabella, so Pilon suggests that they give it to Danny as a gift to Mrs. Morales. As the evening progresses and the wine disappears, the three men fall asleep. The candle to St. Francis sets fire to a wall hanging, which in turns sets the wall and roof on fire.
The men awake to find their house in flames. They rush out of the house with only the bra in their hands. As they look inside the burning house, they see the unfinished gallon of wine. Jesus Maria attempts to go inside to rescue it, but Pilon stops him, saying that the loss of the wine is their punishment for leaving it inside the burning house.
The fire trucks arrive as well as all the neighbors. Pilon tells Jesus Maria to run to tell Danny that his house is on fire. Danny is not in his house but in Mrs. Morales. He tells Jesus Maria that if the firemen cannot control the fire, then there is...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
The next morning, Danny wakes up and thinks about one of his houses burning. He manages to be a little angry at his careless friends as well as his decline in status as a man who has a house to rent.
Soon, however, he feels a sense of relief at having the burden of ownership removed. He thinks that the house burning will revitalize his friendship with the men who had owed him rent. He feels that he must discipline his friends, however, so they won't consider him soft, but he misses the time when he was a man to whom friends could come when they had some food or wine to share.
In the meantime, Pablo, Pilon, and Jesus Maria wake up in the woods to the sound of a picnic going on nearby. They discuss their plans for the future. Jesus Maria suggests that they might need to go to another town for a while, until the enormity of their “crime” has been forgotten. Pilon says this will only delay matters, so they had better go to Danny and confess. Plus, he reminds them, they have the present of the bra for Mrs. Morales.
The nearby picnickers go off and leave the basket behind, so Pablo and Jesus Maria steal all of the food out of it. They take it to Danny as a gift. He calls them dogs of dogs and other insults, but he begins to relent when he sees all the food. He is completely won over when he is presented with the bra, although he says that it is a mistake to give Mrs. Morales a present like this as it tends to tie a man.
Danny worries that Mrs. Morales will not think so highly of him now since he is no longer a man who owns two houses. He decides to keep the bra for a future occasion when it might be of use to someone.
Pilon regrets the loss of Mrs. Morales’s chickens, but Danny announces that she is going to buy two dozen new hens on Monday. As they drink the grappa the friends have brought, they discuss the pleasure there is in having friends to eat and drink with.
Pablo still feels guilty over burning down Danny’s house. Danny assumes that Pilon, Pablo, and Jesus Maria will of course be living with him now, and he warns them to stay out of his bed. In a fit of generosity, Jesus Maria pledges the three to the promise of always supplying Danny with food. Pilon and Pablo are alarmed at being bound to such a promise, but they agree.
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
The Pirate is so named because of his bushy black beard. He has the mind of a child and lives in a chicken coop with his five dogs. Every day he chops wood in the pine forest and sells his load for a quarter.
No one ever sees him spend any money on anything. Pilon speculates that there may be as much as a hundred dollars saved up by the Pirate in the chicken shed. He tells himself that the Pirate is hungry and ragged and needs someone to help him do his thinking for him. He convinces himself that, out of pity, he must be the one to help the Pirate find something to do with his money.
Pilon visits the chicken house where the Pirate lives with his dogs. Danny, Pablo, and Jesus Maria see him go but say nothing, thinking that he is going to visit a woman.
Pilon approaches the shed and calls out to the Pirate, who tells him that it is late and that he and his dogs are asleep. Pilon tells him that he has a candle in his pocket as well as a big sugar cookie.
At this news, the Pirate welcomes Pilon in. After the candle is lit, Pilon gives the sugar cookie to the Pirate, who breaks it up into seven pieces and shares it with Pilon and his five dogs. Pilon tells the Pirate that he has friends who are worried about him. This is news to the Pirate, but Pilon insists that these friends are concerned that the Pirate lives in a shed, dresses in ragged clothes, and has very little to eat.
He asks the Pirate where his money is but the Pirate says he has none, having given it all to a poor old woman. Pilon does not believe him. Pilon continues to watch the Pirate, who he is sure has the money buried some place. He invites the Pirate to live in Danny’s house and soon there are five men and five dogs crowded into the house.
Pilon and his friends tell the Pirate about people who have hidden money and had it stolen from them. This worries the Pirate, who sneaks out each night, followed by Pilon. The location of the Pirate’s money is not found, however, even when all of the men follow the simple-minded man.
One day, the Pirate returns with a bag of one thousand quarters and asks his new friends to guard his money. Pilon did not count on this since it means he will not be able to spend any of it. The Pirate, however, is content now in the midst of his new friends.
(The entire section is 448 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Big Joe Portagee spent most of his time in the army in jail. He also had spent most of his civilian life in jail, but that was only for drunk and disorderly conduct.
When he is released from the army jail after the war, he returns to Monterey and encounters Pilon, who is headed for the woods. Pilon explains that it is St. Andrew’s night, when buried treasure glows in the dark.
Joe accompanies Pilon to the woods, where they walk along searching for a glowing spot. Other people also wander about, or perhaps they are ghosts. At last Pilon sees a spot above which is a faint blue column of light. He marks the spot with a cross to keep away spirits who might come to protect their treasure and then decides to wait until daylight since he cannot dig up the treasure with so many spirits around. Pilon preaches to Joe about his plan to spend the treasure on Danny, who has been so good to him, but Joe falls asleep.
In the morning, the two men go to town to borrow some tools from Mrs. Morales. Pilon is furious with Joe, who returns carrying a jug of wine. He explains that he traded one of Danny’s blankets for it, reasoning that Danny can buy a hundred blankets when they find the treasure. Pilon berates Joe as a blanket-thieving drunk.
They return to the spot in the woods and begin digging. All they find is an elevation marker. Joe suggests that they sell it for the metal, but Joe says that he knows someone who tried that and wound up in jail for a year with a 2000 dollar fine.
Depressed, the two men go to the beach and drink up the wine, falling asleep when the jug is drained. When Pilon awakens, he feels the need for more wine but has no money. He takes off Joe’s pants and goes to Torelli’s, where he trades them for a quart of wine. He immediately drinks it all and asks Mrs. Torelli for more, but she refuses.
Angry at her stinginess, Pilon steals back Joe’s pants as well as Danny’s blanket and returns to Joe on the beach. Joe assumes that some woman took his pants off of him while he was sleeping. He and Pilon curse the deception of women. As they walk up from the beach, Joe feels glad to be with Pilon, who seems to know how to take care of his friends.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Dolores Engracia Ramirez lives on the upper edge of Tortilla Flat, where she does housework for some of the wealthier ladies. Her attractiveness and passionate nature have earned her the nickname “Sweets.”
Sweets likes to lean across her front gate, enticing men. When she learns that Danny has inherited two houses, she is determined to catch him for herself, envisioning a life as Danny’s lady.
Unfortunately, Danny seldom goes by her house. However, she patiently waits until one day he walks by. She asks why he never comes to see her, hinting at what he will find if he does. Danny has just come from cashing in some copper nails he found and now has three dollars. He unwisely tells her of his newfound wealth. She invites him to come back when it is dark.
Danny walks down the street, thinking of the prospects of a night of love, when he encounters Pablo. Danny has no times for friends, but Pablo goes to Torrelli’s to buy two gallons of wine, one for friends and one for Sweets.
Danny invites Pablo to go with him to the jewelry store (not trusting him to be alone with an untended jug of wine), where he spies a vacuum cleaner. He decides that Sweets will like the vacuum cleaner better than jewelry because no one else in Tortilla Flat has one. He completely ignores the fact that no one has one because no one has electricity in their homes.
Nevertheless, Sweets is impressed by the gift and pushes the “sweeping machine” across her floors, even though she has no electricity. In gratitude for the gift, Sweets spends several nights with Danny. However, her gratitude does not reach being willing to sleep with his friends.
Pilon and the others soon resent Danny’s absences with a woman. They reason that if she no longer has the vacuum cleaner, she will no longer take up so much of Danny’s time. Pilon manages to sneak the vacuum out of her house, hiding it in a sack with a rose bush. He takes it to Torrelli’s, where he trades it for two gallons of wine, one for his friends and one for Sweets.
When Danny learns what Pilon has done, he decides that he is tired of Sweets anyway and they drink both gallons of wine, especially when Pablo tells him that Sweets expects him to pay for getting her house wired for electricity. The friends decide that it is not wise to buy a woman a gift that will eventually require another gift.
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Jesus Maria Corcoran is known as a man with a soft heart. Pilon speculates that if Jesus Maria had gone into the church, there would then be a saint of Monterey.
Jesus Maria goes to the post office every day to look at the legs of all the girls who come in. He does not do this out of a sense of vulgarity but as an artist who appreciates beauty.
One day, he meets a sixteen-year-old boy who is carrying a baby. The boy explains that he is a corporal of the Mexican army and that the baby is his. He walked up from Mexico upon hearing that there were jobs in Monterey.
Tired, he sits down on the curb and is arrested by a policeman for vagrancy. He does not speak English, so Jesus Maria explains to the policeman that the boy is a friend of his and that he will take care of him.
Jesus Maria takes the boy to Danny’s house. The friends see that the baby is very sick and needs a doctor, but the corporal will not hear of it. The baby is very weak and does not eat, despite the friends’ best efforts. Pablo thinks that the baby is a result of the boy’s sleeping with some girl.
The corporal explains that he tells the baby, Manuel, several times a day that when he grows up, he will be a general. The boy says that during his journey north, he met a wise man who told him that if he told his baby often what he wanted him to do, the baby would grow up to do it.
The corporal tells the story of his journey. He had served in the Mexican army and worked to rise to the rank of corporal. He married a beautiful girl, and they had a baby soon after. The captain saw the boy’s wife and took her away. The boy tried to get her back but without success, so he took his baby and headed north.
The friends are impressed with this story of one so young. They all watch helplessly as the baby dies. Pilon tells the corporal that he himself must now take revenge on the captain. The boy says he has no plans to do so, and that is not why he wanted his son to grow up to be a general. He reasoned that if a captain could take a man’s wife, what could a general take? He wanted his son to have more than he himself had.
He decides he will now return to Mexico and rejoin the army. The friends are amazed at what a courageous young man he is.
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
When it rains in Monterey, the paisanos do not come out of their homes, but Big Joe Portagee had spent the day under a boat on the beach. He finally crawls out and heads for Danny’s house when there is a break in the rain.
Before he gets there, however, the heavens open and the rain pours down. He darts into the nearest house, where he finds Tia Ignacia, a forty-five-year-old widow. She is known to have a great deal of Indian blood, more than is considered “decent.”
She had just opened a gallon of wine when Joe entered. She tries to hide it, but Joe immediately sees it. She invites him to sit down and dry himself off, offering him a glass of wine, which of course Joe accepts.
Joe drinks four glasses of wine before he says anything to the woman. He says that this is not Torrelli’s wine, and she confesses that she received it from an Italian friend of hers. She tries to get Joe to take off his wet coat, but he refuses, positioning himself stubbornly in his chair.
Joe makes no move to be friendly, which irritates Tia Ignacia. She thinks he is a dirty animal. It would have been better to bring a cow into the house. She asks Joe if he feels friendly, and he says that he does. Tia Ignacia blows out the lamp and the two sit in the dark. She hears Joe’s chair stop creaking, and she prepares herself to repel him if he approaches her, but nothing happens.
She tells Joe that he is with a friend rather than out in the cold and the wet, but Joe says nothing. She tells him that her friend, Cornelia Ruiz, has some of her own “friends” come out of the rain and then comforts them.
She hears a crash as Joe drops his glass. She lights the lamp, thinking that he is ill, but finds that he has fallen asleep. She is furious that he makes no attempt to get “friendly” and so she picks up a stick and begins to beat him. He awakens abruptly and darts from the house, followed by Tia Ignacia, who continues to beat him. He holds her in his arms to stop her and discovers that he has fallen in love.
The policeman, Jake Lake, comes upon them. Joe tells him that since he is going to take them to jail anyway, he could wait a minute until they finish. Jake warns them to get out of the road before someone runs over them and drives off.
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Every afternoon, the Pirate returns to Danny’s house after chopping wood. He gives a quarter to Danny, who puts it in a canvas bag under his pillow. The quarters are for the golden candlestick that the Pirate vowed to buy for St. Francis in exchange for the healing of his dog (even though the dog was run over by a truck not long after). The paisanos think of this as holy and do not think of it as currency.
One day the Pirate returns and gives a quarter to Danny, who goes to put it in the bag only to find that the bag has disappeared. The friends are dismayed but soon realize that it must have been Big Joe Portagee who took it.
Joe soon comes back, carrying a jug of wine. Danny grabs a stick and, as the others hold Big Joe down, begins to beat the thief savagely. When his front side is one big bruise, Joe admits that he took the money, which is now buried by the front gate.
Danny and Pilon dig it up, demanding to know how much of it Joe spent. Joe says he took only four quarters for the wine. The paisanos turn Joe over and beat his back. When he is unconscious, they take off his shirt, cross his back with a can opener, and pour salt in the cuts.
Pilon suggests that they should count the money since it is a long time since they have done so. They discover that there are 1007 quarters, more than enough to buy the golden candlestick. They tell the Pirate that he must have new clothes when he goes to the church, but the Pirate refuses to spend the money on himself.
The others gather some of their own clothes for him, although this means that they cannot go to the church with the Pirate. At the church, the priest, seeing the quarters and hearing the story, tells the Pirate that he gladly will buy the candlestick for him.
That Sunday the Pirate wants to take his dogs with him, but the friends tell him that this would be sacrilegious. During the service, the priest tells of the Pirate’s gift and the story behind it, connecting it with St. Francis’s love for all beasts. He is interrupted when the Pirate’s dogs burst into the church. The Pirate is horrified, but the priest repeats more stories of how the saint cared for all God’s creatures.
The Pirate takes his dogs out to the woods. Suddenly, the wind stops and all the dogs look at one specific spot. The Pirate is sure they saw St. Francis behind him.
(The entire section is 448 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Señora Teresina Cortez has eight children by the time she is thirty. She first gave birth at fourteen, surprised by the appearance of a baby at a ball park. She wrapped the baby in newspaper and left it for the night watchman to find.
At sixteen, she married a man by whom she had two more children. After the second one arrived her husband left, seeing that life with Teresina would not be easy. After that, she kept giving birth, never sure who the father was or even if a father was necessary.
Her mother Angelica, who is almost forty, cares for the children. They survive on beans, which they gather in fields after the pickers have been through. They often find several hundred pounds of beans, enough to keep them alive.
At school one of the boys, Alfredo, is asked by the school nurse what he had for breakfast. He tells her that he had beans and tortillas. He had the same thing for lunch and also for supper. The nurse is horrified to find that all the Cortez children eat nothing but beans and tortillas. When she tells the principal, he is concerned also, but the children are to be found in perfect health.
The only thing that worries Teresina is the possibility of a failure of the bean crop. One year, the rains continue to fall and the bean crop is ruined. Teresina’s mother lights candles to the Virgin Mary, praying for the rain to stop, but it continues to fall. She decides that she has no use for the Virgin, her doubt even leading her to question the Virgin Birth, saying that Teresina sometimes forgets who the father was too. She switches her prayers to Santa Clara.
Jesus Maria is horrified at the older woman’s sacrilege and vows to do something about it. Over the next few days there is a minor crime wave in Monterey as food begins to disappear. Teresina’s home, however, becomes flooded with all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The Cortez children become sickly, which Teresina blames on all the green vegetables and fruit.
One night, four figures sneak into the local warehouse. The next morning, Teresina finds four hundred pounds of beans in her house. She calls it a miracle, and her mother asks the Virgin Mary for forgiveness for her doubt. Teresina soon discovers that she is pregnant and wonders which one of Danny’s friends is the father.
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Danny and the paisanos do not have a watch or clock, so they sleep until the sun wakes them. Danny is the only one who has a bed, while the others sleep on the floor, as do the Pirate’s dogs. Joe tries to use one of the dogs to keep his feet warm, but he is bitten for his discovery that the Pirate’s dogs are not available for a loan.
They discuss the wisdom of washing the window to let more light in, but they reason that this will cause them to stay indoors instead of going outside into the fresh air. They watch a man come from Cornelia Ruiz’s house and discuss that the woman knows only two things: love and fighting.
Jesus Maria regrets that she never knows peace. One man gave her a pig, which she treated like a pet. This leads to the story of Tall Bob's nose. Tall Bob was a vaquero and looked like one. He always wanted people to admire him. He tried to lasso a dog once to show off his skill, but he missed. When people laughed at him, he went home and contemplated killing himself because people were so mean. He sat in a chair with a gun in his hand and waited for someone to find him.
Charlie Meeler came to see him and opened the door. Seeing the gun, Charlie tried to wrestle it from Tall Bob, but the gun went off and shot off the end of Tall Bob’s nose. After that, people laughed even more at Tall Bob. Then they felt sorry for him and made him the dog catcher. He always led the parades by carrying the flag.
Jesus Maria tells the story of Petey Ravanno. Old Mr. Ravanno had several children, but all expect Petey left home. Petey fell in love with Gracie Montez, a girl who had her first baby at the age of twelve. Mr. Ravanno wanted Gracie to marry Petey, reasoning that she would not chase men if she were married.
However, Gracie refused to marry Petey, so he tried to hang himself. He was discovered in time and recovered. Gracie was impressed that a man would go to such lengths for her, so she married him.
Mr. Ravanno fell in love with Gracie’s sister Tonia, despite the vast age difference. He decided that what worked for Petey would work for him. He tied a rope in a tool shed near the gas station and put the rope around his neck, thinking that someone in the station would find him and rescue him. The door blew shut, however, and he was not discovered for an hour.
(The entire section is 450 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Danny evaluates his life in Monterey with his friends and decides that nothing ever changes. He grows tired of the relentless sameness of each day following another.
He was right in the beginning, he thinks, that he should be concerned about being a property owner. He thinks back to the time when he was free. He remembers the times when he was in fights or dealt with outraged husbands after flirting (or more) with their wives.
The weight of home ownership has overcome him. He begins to mope on the front porch so that his friends think that he is ill. Pilon fixes him some tea, but this coddling makes Danny even more restless.
One night he gives up, runs away into the pine woods, and disappears. His friends find him gone in the morning and assume he has found some woman. Jesus Maria thinks this is odd for Danny.
The Pirate takes his dogs into the woods to find Danny, worried that he might be sick, but he is not to be found. When they return to Danny’s house in the evening, they find that Danny’s blankets, some food, and two pots are missing. Pablo realizes that Danny must have taken them, a sure sign that he is mad.
Every day the friends search for Danny. They hear rumors of Danny’s wild adventures, including knocking down people starting fights. More things begin to disappear from the house, including things that do not belong to Danny. The rumors continue. Danny committed partial rape. Danny stole milk from Mrs. Palochico’s goat. Danny was in a fight with some soldiers.
The friends are sad at the realization of Danny’s moral decay, but they are also jealous of the good time he is having.
Then Danny steals from Mr. Torrelli and seduces his wife. Mr. Torrelli has had enough of Danny and his friends. One day he arrives at Danny’s house and shows the friends a piece of paper. It is a bill of sale. Danny sold Mr. Torrelli his house, and the friends must vacate the premises immediately.
The friends are dumbfounded. They ask to see the paper, but Mr. Torrelli refuses to show them. They knock him down, take the bill of sale from him, and burn it in the stove. Mr. Torrelli is furious that now he has no proof of ownership.
Danny returns unexpectedly. The friends tell him of Mr. Torrelli’s account of the sale. Danny asks what they did with the bill. He is relieved to hear that it has been burned. The friends and Danny are reunited. They...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Though Danny has returned to the house with his friends, his joy in living has not. He sits on the porch listlessly, not even swatting the flies away. He has no interest in Cornelia Ruiz’s quick succession of husbands. When Big Joe tries to sleep in Danny’s bed, Pilon and Pablo have to beat him.
Danny will not join in any discussions of the doings of the local community. His friends are worried about how much Danny has changed. It seems that he tried to squeeze the good times of an entire life into three weeks of wildness, and now he is sick of fun. Jesus Maria asks Danny if there is some secret that he is keeping in his heart, but there is not.
Pilon gives him the last of the wine in the house, which seems to do him some good. The friends gather in the gulch behind Danny’s house and decide to go to work at Chin Kee’s place and pack squid to earn some money. They will throw a party for Danny.
The next morning, Danny awakens to find the house deserted, but it does not bother him. The rumor that Danny’s friends are planning a party for him spreads across Tortilla Flat. Plans are sent out from the squid yard. More and more people become involved.
Danny is oblivious to what is going around town. He wanders down to the wharf to be alone. His friends find him and tell him that there is a party being given in his honor.
Danny perks up and goes home. He is the life of the party, which becomes a legend in Tortilla Flat in the ensuing years. Danny drinks three gallons of wine and dances with all the girls. The night passes, and still Danny roars through the party. Later, the people say that Danny began to change form, becoming huge and terrible.
He challenges someone to come and fight him, but no one takes him up on it. He vows to go find someone worthy of his fighting skills and rushes out of the house. The partygoers hear him yell a last cry of defiance and then a thump.
Pilon realizes that something is wrong. He goes outside, calling Danny’s name. He goes down into the gulch and finds Danny, who fell over the edge and down forty feet. Pilon carries Danny back to the house. The priest is called.
Danny’s friends gather around him behind the closed door. The partygoers wait anxiously and realize, when the priest comes from the bedroom, that the unimaginable has happened.
(The entire section is 438 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
Danny’s funeral becomes a community event. No matter what people thought about Danny when he lived, all of them plan to celebrate his life. He is no longer Danny the scourge of the neighborhood; he is Danny the hero.
Since he had served in the army, Danny is eligible for a military funeral. The government embalms his body at government expense, and a caisson already has been prepared for the parade to the cemetery. This causes all the women to remember him more fondly than they had in life. People clean their finest clothes for the memorial service.
On the second day after Danny’s death, the friends gradually realize their grief, at least once the wine wears off. They also realize that they who had loved Danny the most and had most benefited from his generosity cannot go to the funeral. They have no good clothes to wear. Their shirts and jeans are now even more ripped and tattered because of the wild party. Everyone in Tortilla Flat will attend the funeral except for Danny’s friends.
Pilon suggests that they go out and steal suits. Jesus Maria suggests the Salvation Army, but all they have at the moment are dresses. Tito Ralph arrives, dressed in his finest, but quickly leaves when the friends give him dirty looks. The friends realize that they cannot even cut squid for money in time to earn enough for six suits.
Pilon comes up with a solution: They will go to the funeral in what clothes they have, but they will stand on the other side of the street. They realize that this is better than not going.
The day of the funeral proves to be a beautiful day. All of Tortilla Flat goes to the church for the service while the friends wait at the cemetery. They tell stories of Danny as they wait for the cortege. They stand on the curb while Danny is buried with a full military salute.
Afterward, they walk toward Danny’s house. They stop by Torrelli’s, which is empty. Pilon climbs in a window and takes two gallons of wine.
They return to Danny’s house, where they drink the wine. Tito Ralph joins them. Pilon lights a cigar and throws the match away. The match lands on an old newspaper, which catches fire. The friends stand up to stamp it out, but each one pauses. The fire spreads to the wall. Each man separately decides to let it go.
They watch as the fire climbs, smiling as it burns. As the fire trucks approach, the friends leave. The crowds gather to...
(The entire section is 455 words.)