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Archive > Steinbeck Summer July 2009: Tortilla Flats

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Enjoy reading Tortilla Flats during July. To make it more exciting here are some group read discussion questions to contemplate:

1. To what extent do you admire or disapprove of the Paisanos and their way of life?

2. What might Steinbeck have been getting at? Does he portray the Paisanos as heroes...or not? (Read Steinbeck's preface.) To what degree is this story a commentary on society's materialism?

3. Disucss the character of each of the Paisanos: Danny, Pilon, Pablo, the Pirate, Jesus Maria, and Big Joe. How does each contribute to the overall group—what qualities does each bring to the others? Do you identify with any character—or any of their qualities?

4. At one point, Pilon stops to watch sea gulls soaring in the sky above him. He becomes immersed in the moment and in the appreciation of beauty. Think there might be some sort of thematic concern here? Any ideas?

5. What is at the root of Danny's disenchantment? What motivates him? Do you think he's a tragic figure? Or a martyr of sorts?



message 2: by Shelley (new)

Shelley (shelleylynn) I am having trouble finding this book. I am not really in a position right now to buy and none of the libraries seem to have it. Is it maybe in a book of his short stories- does anyone know? My local library doesn't have his short stories and before I order it from another library I would like to know if it is in there.

Thanks for the help!


message 3: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I don't think it's in any short story collections. It's longer than a story, more like a novella. It may be in an anthology, but I'm not sure. I hope you find it, because it's a great story.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I have the same book that Prettymisslara has. The ISBN should help Shelley. See if the library can help you get an interlibrary loan.


message 5: by Shelley (new)

Shelley (shelleylynn) I was in luck- I managed to get a copy- seems there are only 2 in the system and for some reason doing an internet search didn't show it- They found it right away when I went to my library with the ISBN. Thanks so much for your help! Can't wait to read it :)


message 6: by Beth A. (new)

Beth A. (bethalm) I just got mine from the library, it's "The Short Novels of John Steinbeck."


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm glad you got it Shelley!!!


message 8: by Beth A. (new)

Beth A. (bethalm) Did anyone read this book? I'm interested to see what you think.


message 9: by Dan (new)

Dan Porter (theancientreader) I'm about fifty pages in. Read Sweet Thursday first. Tortilla Flat has a very different feel than Sweet Thursday.


message 10: by Donna (new)

Donna I just started Tortilla Flat and I am really enjoying it. I am not sure yet whether I approve of disapprove of the Paisanos way of life. The do seem to have a code of behavior and there is something to be said for living with less emphasis on material wealth but there is a bit of laziness and manipulativeness about it.


message 11: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I would never want to live their life, or have my children adopt that way of life, but it works for them. I think the time frame in which the book takes place has so much to do with the believability of it. Of course there could be no happy paisanos now, but then?...sure. Steinbeck just shows us how real it could have been. We don't have to approve or disapprove.


message 12: by Elena (last edited Jul 10, 2009 04:41AM) (new)

Elena *Spoiler*

I started the book last night and finished it today, being it short, thanks God. It is good and Steinbeck had the wisdom of not dragging it, making it fun to read. I did skip chapter 14 after a couple of pages at it is not related to any of the characters.

I don't judge the way they lived their lifes, but also I don't approve of stealing. They did go out and work cleaning squids (I think that was it) when they wanted to. It seems to me they had shame or concious about stealing from everybody.

I like this statement on the last chapter: "Death is a personl matter, arousing sorrow, depair, fervor, or dry-hearted philosophy. Funerals, on the other hand, are social functions." And then he goes talking about the cloth, and the service, and everything that goes on on them. I really, really wished the friends would had gone to the funeral. I was pushing them there with my thoughts!

I can't say exactly what disenchanted Danny at the end. I think he just got tired of a full house the same way some of us need a break sometime away from the husband, and the kids, and the dogs, and the in-laws, and the job....

Question: Do you think he committed suicide? It is my impression that he went out on a drunken stupor, imagining something he was fighting, and fall into the ravine. It wasn't suicide.




message 13: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wldinnis) After reading other Steinbeck books, this seemed to be a lot lighter than his normal books.


message 14: by Shelley (new)

Shelley (shelleylynn) I have yet to start this book- I am about half way through Sweet Thursday and then I will begin this one. I am excited to read it after all the different comments I have read on this book- it seems people either really like it or don't.


message 15: by Tracy (new)

Tracy | 5 comments *Spoiler Alert*

First, I thought this book was hysterical. The shennanigans these boys got themselves into in their never-ending quest for wine was a riot. I think Danny was the glue that held them together, but it was ultimately the Pirate who taught them lessons about friendship and respecting others.

Same as you, Elena, I wanted them at Danny's funeral! But I think that just added to the tragedy and it made me wonder, Now will they finally realize they can't just pilfer their lives away?

I don't think Danny intended to die. I think it was the tragic and inevitable end to the life he was leading. I don't think he could really handle being a homeowner, like how sometimes when people win the lottery, they go crazy.

I agree with you, Wendy, that this was a much lighter Steinbeck novel. I think that while you could delve into the social commentary aspect of it, you can also just read it as a funny and sweet story about a group of misguide, yet funny and sweet friends.


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