T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain is a book about nature and the American Dream. The perspective of this story is told through the lives of the 4 main characters; American Delaney Mossbacher and his wife Kyra Mossbacher, and Mexican Candido Rincon and his lover America Rincon. The story compares views of some Americans to non-American people, mostly illegal immigrants, who are viewed as wild animals. This book shares many ideas similar to other stories that we have read throughout this class. The idea that a type of people are not civilized and live as they do, or viewing wild animals as being unrelated to humans. “They ain’t human. A human being wouldn’t live like they do. A human being couldn’t stand it to be so dirty and miserable.” -John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
The story begins as Delaney hits Candido with his car. “Delaney felt the relief wash over him- the man wasn’t going to die, he wasn’t going to sue, he was alright and it was over. “Can I do anything for you?” he asked, feeling charitable now.” I mean give you a ride someplace or something?” Delaney pointed to the car. He held his fists up in the front of his face and pantomimed the act of driving. “ (8) Candido, being an illegal Mexican immigrant, only takes 20 bucks from Delaney, as not to get in trouble, and they part ways. Delaney returns home and tells his wife Kyra of this situation that had occurred earlier that day. “I told you- he was Mexican”. (15) Here in this passage Kyra worries for the man as he might try to sue Delaney or go talk to a lawyer and is alarmed that all Delaney did was give the man 20 dollars, and not alert any officials about the matter. “What are you thinking? Are you out of your mind? DO you have any idea what one of these shyster personal-injury lawyers would do to get ahold of something like this?” (15) This bothers me because neither of the characters Delaney nor Kyra feel any sympathy for the man. Delaney slammed into this man with his car and all he did was give the man 20 dollars. Clearly Delaney felt bad for hitting this man like a coyote that ran in the middle of the road but Candido is a human being just like Delaney and his wife Kyra.
Much of this story carries on this message about illegal immigrants and people that live lives that are dissimilar to the lives of us Americans. But also the message of this story can viewed much deeper, rather than viewing the illegal Mexicans in this book as who they are they can take the perspective of animals in the natural world. Many humans in today’s world do not view ourselves, the human race, as a part of nature. We have disassociated ourselves from our roots and ties to nature. “He flung open the door and shot through the courtyard, head down, rounding the corner of the house just in time to see a dun-colored blur scaling the six-foot chain-link fence with a tense white form clamped in its jaws. His brain decoded the image: a coyote had somehow managed to get into the enclosure and seize one of the dogs, and there it was, wild nature, up and over the fence as if this were some sort of circus act.” (37) This passage is about a coyote coming into the Mossbucher’s property and killing one of their pet dogs. Throughout the story the coyote is an animal that Delaney associates with the Mexicans, and blames the two for being around because of the actions of his neighbors. “This didn’t have to happen. It didn’t. If it wasn’t for those idiots leaving food out for the coyotes as if they were nothing more than sheep with bushy tails and eyeteeth… and he’d warned them, time and time again. You can’t be heedless of your environment.” (39)
Many people in our world today as I have already mentioned have dissociated themselves from the natural world. Their views of themselves and humans are that we are our own type of nature unlike the creatures we find outside of our towns and cities. But what many people need to realize is that as we continue to build or infrastructure and alter the form of the Earth we are invading its habitats and sooner or later they’re going to start crossing over back into our own world.
Later in the story Delaney writes in his column to spread awareness of the coyotes and how they have taken a second one of his dogs. “We cannot eradicate the coyote, nor can we fence him out, not even with eight feet of chain link, as this sad but wiser pilgrim can attest. Respect him as the wild predator he is, keep your children and pets inside, leave no food source, however, negligible, where he can access it… The coyotes keep coming, breeding up to fill in the gaps, moving in where the living is easy. They are cunning, versatile, hungry, and unstoppable. (214)
A lesson that Delaney and the rest of the real world need to realize is that we live in ta world where there are many referent players in the game of life. All of these players require different things to survive and once we begin to take those resources from other people, animals, and the natural world, there are negative effects. In this story as Americas thrive and build their wealth by living the American dream there are m any other people who suffer and wish to live the same life as us. Candido is the coyote in this story who is fighting to survive by any means that he can. As we as a human race deplete the world for materials that we require to survive, we are knowingly killing many of the other creatures that live here on Earth that deserve the world just as much as we do.