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FREE ONLINE BOOKNOTES AND ANALYSIS - Tortilla Flat
How Danny was ensnared by a vacuum cleaner and how Danny's friends rescued him
On Tortilla Flat lived a woman named Dolores Engracia Ramirez known as Sweets Ramirez to the men for certain amorous, voluptuous qualities that she possessed. As did all of the ladies on Tortilla Flat when learning about Danny’s inheritance, Sweets wanted to be his lady. Each evening she waited for Danny to pass by and fall into her trap, but he never did. Because she was up the hill from Danny, he did not often have the occasion to pass her house. She, of course, was a lady and could not go to see him.
Eventually, Danny did pass the house. Danny had managed to sell some nails for three dollars and was on his way to Torrelli’s to buy some wine, when Sweets asked him where he was going. She invited him in for wine, and Danny accepted. Danny realizes that he has become lustful for Sweets, and becomes angry. She invites him to return that evening. Now, a big bear and not feeling anger, Danny accepts. He decides that it would be nice to bring her some wine.
In town, Danny meets Pablo and shares with him some of the wine he has bought for Sweets. He decides to buy her a present, and ends up with a vacuum cleaner. This present, regardless of the fact that it is a useless due to the absence of electricity on the Flat, heightens Sweets’s position in society.
Soon, Danny’s friends become weary of the time he is spending with Sweets and hatch a plan to save their friend. After acquiring some wine from an unwitting Italian, they tell Danny stories of Cornelia Ruiz and her new man and of Susie Francisco and her new man. Then Pablo asks Danny what he has done to make the whole town laugh at him. Pilon tells Danny that Sweets is telling everyone that Danny will install wires in her house so that she can use the vacuum that he bought her. They tell Danny that to avoid embarrassment, he should take the vacuum back. Pilon tells Danny that he will get it back. Pilon takes the vacuum without Sweets knowing and exchanges it at Torrelli’s for two gallons of wine.
While they are drinking the wine, Johnny Pom-pom stops by and tells them that he has come from Torrelli’s and that Mr. Torrelli is very angry with Pilon. Evidently, the vacuum had no motor. The men all agree that Mr. Torrelli got what he deserved-his wine is getting poorer and poorer. If he doesn’t watch out-they will buy their wine somewhere else.
Here, we have another chapter that shows both the scheming nature of this bunch, and their love for one another. By now, Steinbeck has proved to us that these guys are an ingenuous pack. While they may produce some clever schemes, they mean no real harm. The one threat to the perfection of their circumstances seems to be if Danny falls in love; to the men, women are perilous creatures who mean no good-particularly, when it comes to Danny. Interestingly, it seems that they may actually be right. Mrs. Morales was cold to Danny when he lost his second house, and it appears that Sweets wishes to be his lady now that he is an heir. For this reason, Steinbeck does not intend for the reader to see the break up of the couple at the hands of the friends as the result of malevolence, but love. Mostly, it is a chance for him to create a humorous situation.
It could be argued that there is significance in the empty vacuum cleaner. Throughout this novel, there are consistently empty promises. This present is issued to Sweets less as a promise of real love than is insure that Danny may continually keep her company. Interestingly, this worthless contraption elevates her social status, but it is worthless-much as most material objects appear in this story, especially when compared with spiritual objects.