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FREE Study Guide-Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck-Book Summary
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Friendship/ Unity

Throughout this story there is one major consistency, that is the presence of the friends. Steinbeck presents the reader with a group of men who have, essentially nothing. They are poor; they are on the margins of society. However, they are not portrayed as desperate characters. In fact, Danny’s major conflict is that as he has inherited something that makes him more acceptable in society as a whole-he seeks his former comforts as a have not. The major safety net for this group is their friendship. Their lives revolve around drinking together, eating together, singing together, and generally seeking adventure together. While they chide one another and dispute somewhat-their friendship is their major possession, which they seek to preserve.

Freedom in what is free

The men of Tortilla Flat have few possessions and very little money. Yet, they own their lives. A good example of this is how they are able to wake up naturally. They can sleep until whenever they like and then relax throughout the day. It is the acquisition of possessions, for Danny, which causes his downfall. Danny was tied to nothing until he owned his home. He was able to wander about at will. The idea of becoming tied to something depressed him to the point of his death. The friends seek money only when it is necessary; for instance, when they wanted to throw Danny a party.

Beauty in Nature

Most of Steinbeck’s novels occur in California, and the natural beauty of the scenery is very important in his writing. He equates nature with spirituality-Pilon feels the presence of God, of Christ; he notices sea gulls, and similarly, his soul is free and flying with them. This furthers the idea of freedom in what is free. There is no spiritual experience associated with the stuff that Danny has acquired-with that only burdens are associated. Instead, in nature, which is free to everyone-Pilon’s soul is perfect.


This story is told in the third person, omniscient. This means that it is told by an unrelated narrator, who has access to the thoughts of everyone.

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FREE Study Guide-Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck-Synopsis/Analysis


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