(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

T. Coraghessan Boyle’s sixth novel, The Tortilla Curtain, addresses the clash of cultures inherent in the contemporary Mexican American experience. The novel’s title refers to the border separating Southern California and Mexico, which Mexican immigrants cross illegally in search of work. One such immigrant, Cándido Rincón, is crossing a highway in suburban Los Angeles when he is struck by a car driven by Delaney Mossbacher, a resident of the nearby upper-middle-class community Arroyo Blanco Estates. When the bumbling Delaney offers help, Cándido asks for money and receives twenty dollars. The transaction cynically defines the novel’s ethnic identities: Americans are valueless exploiters who purchase peace of mind with money; Mexican immigrants are desperate victims who sell themselves cheaply in order to survive.

The novel parallels Delaney and Cándido’s lives, which are lived in close proximity to each other and occasionally intersect. Delaney, a transplanted New Yorker who writes columns for a nature magazine, is a house husband to his second wife, Kyra, and stepfather to Kyra’s son, Jordan. They live a yuppie dream of the good life, replete with gourmet foods, two cars, and financial security. Their only concern is the invading coyotes, whose assaults on their pets symbolize the predatory world beyond their fenced-in backyard.

Cándido and his second wife, América, are part of that world, and their grim existence...

(The entire section is 476 words.)