The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle Delaney Mossbacher, the protagonist of Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain, is the typical American family man. He is married to Kyra, “the undisputed volume leader at Mike Bender Realty, Inc. ” and he is the stepfather of Jordan. As Kyra has a fulltime job, Delaney takes care of Jordan and the household duties, while receiving the privilege of working from home as a “liberal humanist. ” Delaney writes for “Wide Open Spaces,” which is a magazine of “a naturalist’s observations of the life blooming” around him.
As Delaney is only required to write one magazine a month, he tends to have a lot of spare time, in which he can “let the day settle around him. ” In his free time, Delaney enjoys taking hikes and exploring nature that is right beside his Arroyo Blanco Estates house, located in Topanga Canyon. Seeing as him and his wife maintain a healthy lifestyle as “joggers, nonsmokers, and social drinkers,” Delaney is physically built. Along with being an outdoorsman, Delaney is very involved in his neighborhood and the community that surrounds him.
He cares for everything around him, as he is a part of “the Sierra Club, Save the Children, and the National Wildlife Federation. ” He is a giving person, and is educated about the world and what is around him. Most outsiders would see Delaney as a kind individual who knows what he wants to make out of himself. At first, Delaney is indifferent to the illegal immigrants that surround his neighborhood. He thinks “immigrants are the lifeblood of [his] country” and without them nothing would work functionally.
Delaney dislikes the idea of building a wall around his community because he thinks it to be wrong and unnecessary. He possesses a mentality of thinking “that everyone deserve[s] a chance in life,” and the illegal Mexican immigrants will eventually settle in the United States just like every other race did. Delaney’s opinion on the illegal immigrants differentiates him from the rest of his community because he stands up for what he believes in and follows his heart.
Unlike the rest of the neighborhood, Delaney does not succumb to the stereotypes of the Mexicans because he initially feels that they are just like everyone else, which is what is so nice about Delaney. Even though Delaney is a major environmentalist and liberal humanist, he cannot help but let his mind slip into being scared of the outside world surrounding him. Originally, Delaney thinks it to be wrong to “[lock] yourself away from the rest of society” by installing a gate.
Although Delaney is initially opposed to the idea of this gate, he accepts it to be put up because no one “want[s] urban crime up [there]. ” Not only is Delaney developing a fear of the illegal immigrants surrounding him, but he is also feeling hatred towards them, although that was what he was protesting against Jack Jardine for. Delaney slowly develops feelings of racism towards the illegal immigrants from Mexico, as he has had many incidents where they have wronged him. Delaney [feels] a thrill of triumph and hate” as he wrongfully accuses the Mexican, wearing the backwards hat, for starting the canyon fire. Even though he has no proof of this, Delaney’s growing racism towards the “wetbacks” drive him to think that they are to blame for everything wrong in his life. Delaney’s view of the immigrants completely transforms as a result of his neighbors’ influence on him. They continuously pressure him into believing that the immigrants are the source of all their problems.
Not only has Delaney’s perspective changed of the mostly innocent immigrants, but his entire mindset and character has changed. He no longer acts like a humanist to the extent that he previously had and is easily influenced by the people surrounding him. Topanga Canyon is a very significant setting to The Tortilla Curtain. Topanga Canyon provides a home for Candido and his wife, America, deep in a canyon, where they are far from society. This setting proves the generalized society in America because it shows the separation and isolation of the Mexican immigrants from the rest of society.
Also, Delaney lives in Topanga Canyon, but he lives in Arroyo Blanco, a community in society. Once again, this proves how it is much more difficult for Mexican immigrants to assimilate themselves into society than it is for American white men. Additionally, Delaney’s neighborhood, being located in Topanga Canyon, is a canyon made up of vast mountains, inhibited by wild animals and plants. Topanga Canyon is the perfect place for Delaney because all he likes to do is be with nature, and in order to do so all he has to do is just look outside his backyard and he is there.
The canyon gives Delaney a place to think about anything, and Delaney often uses this to his advantage. Not only does it provide work for Delaney, as he writes for an environmentalist magazine, but it also provides him a break from the world and lets him just be one with nature, which is what he loves most. I think the neighborhood of Arroyo Blanco represents society in the way that everyone thinks the same and participates and has a say in the decisions made for the community.
Not only does the community act as one, but also everyone is involved in each other’s lives. Along with being a strong neighborhood, Arroyo Blanco Estates serves as an inspiration and motivation for illegal immigrants, such as Candido and America. These immigrants strive to be able to have what the residents of these estates have. The community of Arroyo Blanco is the idealistic lifestyle for many people. The people who reside in these estates have everything they need to live a good life, and they represent what society is like in their city.
When I began reading The Tortilla Curtain, I was originally confused about who was talking and what was going on, so at first I did not like the way T. C. Boyle wrote. But the farther along I got in the book, the more I enjoyed the different views of the characters. The changes within first person really gave me a new perspective on each situation and character, and made me see them in a light I would have missed if it were the same character speaking throughout the entire book. I also liked how for the duration of most of the novel, T. C. Boyle would switch couples within each chapter.
I really liked being able to read a scene twice, from the perspective of Delaney and Kyra and later from Candido and America. Another thing I liked about his writing was the way he incorporated the Mexican, who wears the backwards hat, in the lives of the four main characters as something negative to all. It showed a connection between the four of them, and it gave me a sense of familiarity between them. As I reflect my thoughts on the book, I really liked the way Boyle wrote it and how he let me read the book through the eyes of all the characters.