Character Analysis Essay
In part one of the novel The Tortilla Curtain, Delaney Mossbacher has many personality traits that do not convince the reader he is a pleasant, all-American family man. Delaney shows narcissistic tendencies. His racist thoughts and actions are quite apparent, and Delaney’s lack of emotional intelligence becomes evident. Delaney Mossbacher Is not the man you may have been deluded to believe he is. Delaney is an absolute narcissist. He describes himself as a “liberal humanist with an unblemished driving record and a freshly waxed Japanese car with personalized plates.” (Boyle 3). This demonstrates how Delaney views himself- as someone who takes pride in his image being perfect. His personalized license plate and shiny waxed car are the first hints of his narcissistic personality. “Delaney’s first thought was for the car (was it marred, scratched, dented?), and then for his insurance rates (what was this going to do to his good-driver discount?), and finally, belatedly, for the victim.” (4).
Those thoughts are the second clue to his narcissistic attitude. Delaney is materialistic, only thinking about himself and his car and his perfect image. He does not express concern for Candido until after he has worried about his car and his insurance. When Delaney eventually thinks about the man he hit, he says to himself “It wasn’t his fault, god knew- the man was obviously insane, demented, suicidal, no injury would convict him.” (4). Delaney’s view of himself that he is perfect and could do no wrong is completely flawed. Delaney’s racism is very clear in part one of the novel. “Delaney felt his guilt turn to anger, to outrage… it was people like this Mexican or whatever he was who were responsible, thoughtless people, stupid people, people who wanted to turn the world into a garbage dump, a little Tijuana.” (11). He uses hasty generalization to group Candido and all other Mexicans together, saying they all dirty up the world with their garbage. He shows no empathy whatsoever towards the struggle it takes to make a new life and have new opportunities when you immigrate to America. “But then he checked himself… maybe [Candido] was a picnicker, a bird- watcher, a fisherman; maybe he was some naturalist.” (11). Delaney begins to redeem himself, by correcting himself in saying he could be wrong about his ideas of Mexicans. The reader begins to think Delaney isn’t so bad after all. Then he throws it all in the trash, saying “Yeah, sure. And he was the King of Siam.” (11). Delaney then goes on to relay the events of the accident to his wife, saying “No, listen Kyra: the guy’s okay… He’s gone, he went away. I gave him twenty bucks… I told you, he was Mexican.”
Delaney’s anger and accusations towards the Mexicans are evidence he is a racist. Delaney lacks the emotional intelligence necessary for basic social interactions. For example, there is a meeting in Arroyo Blanco Estates the night Sacheverell is eaten by the coyote, to discuss the issue of a gate to secure the estates. “I said I just wanted to know how many of you are aware of what feeding the indigenous coyote population means” (44) Delaney interrupts the discussion of the gate to attempt to bring to light what happened to his wife’s dog, fully aware that that is not what the meeting is about. “I am sorry Delaney… but we have a pending question regarding construction and maintenance of a gated entryway, and I’m going to have to ask you to speak to it or yield the floor.” (45) Jack Jardine interrupts him and Delaney just can’t understand why no one is listening to him. Delaney never interacts with his neighbors or the other Arroyo Blanco Estates members, so he has had no social knowledge about how the group thinks and what they thinks. Delaney makes himself out to be sneered at because of his lack of social skills. “Delaney was angry suddenly, angry for the second time that day, burning, furious. Why wouldn’t people listen? Didn’t they know what this meant, treating wild carnivores like ducks in the park?” (45) The fact that the entire meeting is about one specific topic- the gate, just goes right of his head. He doesn’t understand that they won’t listen because his problem is irrelevant to theirs.
Delaney becomes angry, like a little child that throws a fit because nobody is paying attention to him. If Delaney was more a part of the community, and had more friends who maybe felt the same way about the things he did, he might have had more of a status in the meeting, but Delaney is like wallpaper. He doesn’t want to be invisible; he just wants to blend in with the rest of the world. Delaney’s racism has only escalated from the beginning of the novel to the end of part one, so one could surmise his problem will only become worse. He puts up a front of this perfect person who has no flaws, and is just a simple man- a “Moss- backer”. He will most likely have another encounter with a Mexican, and that would bring out his anger towards them even more. Delaney could start to realize from the meeting that if he became involved with the community, he could have more of a place in Arroyo Blanco Estates. If he does that, he might see that he doesn’t have to just blend in; he can have an influence in the things that go in in the community.
Boyle, T.C. The Tortilla Curtain. New York: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.