Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
ESSAY TOPIC IDEAS / BOOK REPORT TOPICS / STUDY QUESTIONS
1. In Tortilla Flat, Steinbeck represents a mostly male cast. The very few women in the story are presented as romantic follies with ulterior motives and, ultimately, bad news. Do you believe this is intentional? Why might Steinbeck have done this?
2. How are Danny and his friends similar to the Knights of the Round Table? What are the benefits of this comparison? If you do not think it is a beneficial comparison, why not? Do you believe it is an absurd idea?
3. The main characters in this novel often commit small crimes, even against one another-yet they appear loveable and heroic. How is Steinbeck able to achieve this?
4. Discuss the element of nature in this story. How would this story be different if it was set in a city such as New York City?
5. Are the friends merely adventure seekers, or are they genuinely humanitarian souls?
6. Consider the time period of the novel, The Great Depression. What, if any, effects does this have on the plot? Give specific examples of how evidence of the Great Depression can be seen in the novel.
7. Does Steinbeck seem to have the motive of creating a moral message in his story? If you think so, why might he use the paisanos to convey this message? Be sure to consider racial and economic stereotyping.
8. Are there any aspects of this novel that you, the reader, can relate to in your own life? For instance, is the camaraderie experienced between Danny and his friends transcendent of time and still relatable to the modern reader? Explain why the ability, or inability, to relate to this novel today enhances or detracts from its value.
9. Obviously, this book continues to be critically acclaimed. It is still printed every year, and taught as an important contribution to the literary genre. Why might scholars consider this work to be important among American fiction?
10. Through a detailed compare/ contrast essay, make an argument for why Tortilla Flat should be considered the first work of a trilogy preceding two of Steinbeck’s other novels: Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.