Boyle, T.C. The Tortilla Curtain. New York City: Viking Penguin ‘ Penguin Books, 1995. Print.
In ‘The Tortilla Curtain’, by T. C. Boyle, two completely different couples are brought to the readers’ attention to shed light upon the illegal immigrant matter, and the ‘wall’ that many people want to be put up. The two polar opposite couples come from very different sides of the spectrum, but in the end, they both are used to relatively show the matter of Mexican immigration from both point of views. Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher are a middle class, white American couple. They are seen as the normal ‘American’ family in society; both have jobs of their own, a car to drive, a rather nice home to live in, and food for their selves every single night. The neighborhood that they live in is called Arroyo Blanco Estates. This estate is ‘a private community, comprising a golf course, ten tennis courts, a community center, and some two hundred and fifty homes’ (Boyle), it can be considered your typical middle-class American community. After some research this can be translated into ‘white stream’. This is a pretty ironic name for a neighborhood within this book, due to the history the book is covering. On the other hand, there is another couple who is Candido and America Ricon. They are both Mexican immigrants who came to the United States in hopes to each find work. They realized that if they were both working towards a mutual goal then they could accomplish success a lot faster. This novels meaning is to portray the message that even though these two couples might be completely different, they are ultimately alike because even though there are differences between them they are all human. Both couples strive towards the same goals in life, which is success for each of them and a home to grow together in. While this goal maybe easier for the American couple, it is much more of a challenge for the Mexican immigrants due to the way people see them in America. Throughout this essay light will be shed on the problems these two different couples face, but the much larger reason behind this essay is to use this novel in order to explain the problems between Mexicans and Americans.
The men from each couple came in contact with one another due to an accident, which is seen as a literal crashing of the two worlds; the Mexican world and the American world. The accident leads to events that in turn affect both men throughout this novel, and switches back and forth between the two in order to compare and contrast their lives individually. As said in the book, ‘the whole thing happened so quickly’ (Boyle), it is as if neither of them saw it coming. Each man had something to lose if the police were to be called from this accident, so they decided against that, and instead Delaney gave Candido just twenty dollars. Twenty dollars does not seem like much to many, but to Candido that was worth more than calling the police and risking getting in trouble for being an illegal immigrant. This scene shines light on this matter by showing just how easily a Mexican can be paid off for anything. He was hit by a vehicle and only walked away with bad injuries and twenty dollars. Some can argue that the Mexican is illegal and should not have even been there in the first place; if he was not illegally in the United States then the accident between the two would have never happened. As mentioned, Candido was payed off by just twenty dollars but he took the money with no argument because he also came into the United States to work for money for him and his wife. It is seen throughout this novel just how easily white Americans have good jobs and good pay, while they don’t have to work nearly as hard for their jobs. On the other hand, Mexican immigrants like Candido and America work extremely hard at any job their given and still would never receive as good of a pay as a white American. Even though Candido does not like the fact of America working for them she still does it anyway. He does not want her working due to things that have happened to women from working in the past, but he also does not like the idea of her working because he sees him-self at the man and believes that the man should be providing for them; opposite from Americans where both man and woman work to provide an income.
A little while later in the novel, Delaney’s friends mention the idea that they want the gate to be put up. In the beginning Delaney is extremely against this idea, but after a night of walking the streets alone he concludes that the idea is not as bad as it seemed to him in the beginning. Not only is Delaney frightened in his ‘safe’ neighborhood, but Candido is also very frightened at his campsite by American teenagers who had destroyed their camp and belongings. While Candido is at their campsite, America is working due to Candido’s injuries sustained from the accident.
America is working along side a woman named Mary, who is a white American, and while America is working extremely hard for her money Mary ‘tipped back a pint of that liquor she had with her and as the day went on she got slower and slower till practically all she did at the end was sit there and complain’ (Boyle). Showing readers, just how much Mexicans appreciated working for money a lot more than Americans did. America’s work ethic is twice as good, and you would expect her to always get a job over someone with bad work ethic like Mary, but due to her Mexican background and her being an illegal immigrant that is a highly unlikely circumstance. The novel mentioned that after America’s day at work, America and Candido were to meet at the supermarket after she got off work, so despite his injuries Candido heads to the supermarket in search of his wife. At the supermarket at run-in between Delaney and Candido is discussed. After Delaney had been calling his friend racists the whole time while in the supermarket, Delaney even said ‘immigrants are the lifeblood of this country’we’re a nation of immigrants’and neither of us would be standing here today if it wasn’t’. Though, the second he sees Candido he instantly becomes racists towards him. Which is ironic due to how he was saying his friend was being racists and then there he was doing exactly as his friend was. After this run-in experience it is clearly shown that no matter what an American believed for his own kind, once it was a person of a different ethnicity they showed completely different actions towards that person. Shortly after this incident showing Delaney’s beliefs his wife, Kara, is driving past her property and notices about 7 Mexicans near the area. She mentions how the Mexicans being near her property could lower the property value. This shows just how much she looks down on these Mexicans.
There is an idea in this novel that putting the wall up will not keep all of the ‘bad’ people out. The bad people to American’s are considered Mexican’s. even though they think this, it is ironic because a lot of the bad people would be inside the wall, these bad people being the bad American’s. Not all Mexicans are bad they are just stereotyped that way by many Americans. It can in fact be pointed out throughout this novel that most American’s were the ones doing harm to American property, not the Mexicans; so, if they wall was to be in forced and put up then the bad people inside the wall would be American citizens. This can be seen in part three of the novel when Arroyo Blanco becomes the third victim of vandalization, and Delaney wants to find the person behind doing this crime. He believes and accuses Mexicans of this action when in reality, it is found out later on, that the person responsible for this was Jack Jr. and a friend of his.
Throughout this novel much about Mexican and American conflict is discussed. This novel is a better representation of this than a factual academic account because this novel allows readers to put their selves in the shows of both sides of this novel. Allowing this to happen can create a stronger connection to the reader, the book, and the materials discussed within this book. During this time immigration laws were being discussed and putting into effect. This also helps to shape the way this novel is written by showing how strongly some Americans felt about these immigration laws.
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