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Tortilla Flat - Paisanos, Camaraderie, Unemployment, & W

Tortilla Flat - Paisanos, Camaraderie, Unemployment, and a Bottle of Wine

John Steinbeck is the ultimate storyteller. In fact, his writing was so excellent that he was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1962. Steinbeck is from Salinas, California, which is where Tortilla Flat is set. Steinbeck is probably best known for his novels The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden, as well as the novella, Of Mice and Men. However, Tortilla Flat was actually Steinbeck's first well-received novel, and it is worthy of that honor. Tortilla Flat was written in 1935 when Steinbeck was only 33 years old.

Steinbeck's writing is frank, clear, and simple; but at the same time he weaves intricate and remarkable stories that are complete with emotion and complex characters. Tortilla Flat is no exception. Tortilla Flat reads much like the other John Steinbeck books I have read, The Pearl and Of Mice and Men. It is an emotional story of disadvantaged, impoverished, and frequently unemployed characters making their way and finding satisfaction in the world.

Danny is a paisano. "What is a paisano? He is a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasian bloods. His ancestors have lived in California for a hundred or two years. He speaks English with a paisano accent and Spanish with a paisano accent. When questioned concerning his race, he indignantly claims pure Spanish blood and rolls up his sleeve to show that the soft inside of his arm is nearly white. His color, like that of a well-browned meerschaum pipe, he ascribes to sunburn." Tortilla Flat is essentially Danny's story. His story, when you are first introduced to him, mainly consists of waking up, getting drunk nightly off copious amounts of wine, and falling back to sleep. All events in between are usually geared towards somehow obtaining the money for the bottles of wine.

We meet Danny as he is returning from war. He delightfully discovers that his grandfather has left him two houses in Monterey's Tortilla Flat. For a man who has no job, no money, and is accustomed to sleeping under whatever makeshift shelter he could find, two houses are a huge blessing. Somewhere along the way he manages to get down to one house (which is an entertaining story in itself!). His remaining house becomes a sort of beacon to fellow down-and-out paisanos. The camaraderie and relationships that develop between the characters managed...

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