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FREE Study Guide-Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck-Book Summary
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While the men commiserate they find their friend, Jesus Maria. Jesus Maria is drunk, and offers wine to Pilon and Pablo. Jesus Maria tells the men how two nights ago he was sleeping on the beach and found a row boat, worth twenty dollars. He was only able to get seven for it. He bought two gallons of wine. Then he met up with Arabella Gross. He bought her a pair of silk drawers and whisky, but she left him for some soldiers. Pilon asks if he has any money left, and they discover that he has three dollars and ten cents, with which he plans to buy Arabella a present. Pilon, seizing the opportunity, convinces Jesus Maria that he is terribly ill-two people have already died from sleeping in the night air as Jesus Maria is doing-and that he must come to stay at Pilon’s and Pablo’s home, so that he might be cured.

Pilon and Pablo tell Jesus Maria that he can rent from them for fifteen dollars a month, and for now they will accept three dollars. Jesus Maria protests, saying that the money is for a present for Arabella. Pilon and Pablo convince him that if they do not pay Danny two dollars, they will all be put out on the street and it will be Jesus Maria’s fault. Jesus Maria gives them two dollars. At first, they plan to take the money directly to Danny. Then they decide that with the money Danny will buy Mrs. Morales candy, which is not good for people. Instead, they will be philanthropic and buy a gallon of wine for Danny to give her. Pilon sets out to get the wine, and instructs Jesus Maria to find some food for them.

One evening Pablo and Pilon sit behind Torrelli’s and drink the two gallons of wine that they had bought with the intention of giving to Danny; however, they decide that Danny is a “man who knows little restraint in drinking”(40). Therefore, it would be a bad idea to give him the wine. In the interest of his health, they decide to keep it for themselves.

When Mr. Torrelli leaves Pablo and Pilon flatter Mrs. Torrelli into giving them supper. The men manage to acquire wood for their stove, and return home where it will be warm. When they return home, they remark that it is strange that Jesus Maria is not back yet. When Jesus Maria does return, moments later, he is badly beaten. Initially, it seems that he was viciously attacked by a group of soldiers and Arabella Gross, when he went to visit her with the intentions of giving her a brassier that he purchased as a present. However, as he continues with telling of the events, it seems that the fight was provoked by Jesus Maria’s drinking the soldiers’ whisky. Pilon and Pablo think it would be a good idea to give the brassier to Danny for Mrs. Morales.

The men dance and sing jubilantly. They are startled awake later that night when they realize that the house has caught fire from a candle they had accidentally left burning. Jesus Maria runs to tell Danny that the house is burning (the fire company is already there). Danny asks if the fire company cannot do anything, what should he be able to do. The house burns completely. Pablo, Pilon, and Jesus Maria retreat into the woods, realizing that it would be best not to see Danny for a while.

The next day Danny contemplates the fire. At first he feels anger, but, ultimately, he realizes that he is relieved that he no longer has the burden of owning a second home. Danny forgives his friends, but decides that he must discipline them a little before he lets them know that they are forgiven.

In the meantime, Pilon, Pablo, and Jesus Maria awake in the forest. They consider going to another town for a while, but decide it is better to go to Danny to confess their wrong. Before they get to Danny’s house, they manage to “acquire” many items of reconciliation such as fruit , meat sandwiches, a magazine, and other items.

When the men arrive Danny begins by acting mad, but quickly it is apparent that he has forgiven them. They eat the food until they are stuffed. Pilon explains that they have the brassier as a present for Danny to give Mrs. Morales, but it seems that she does not want to keep his company since he has lost his second house. Danny brings a quart of grappa for them to share as a sign of his forgiveness. Although it is not explicitly stated, they all know that they four will live together in Danny’s house. Jesus Maria, to the dismay of Pilon and Pablo, promises Danny that as long as they live there, they will make sure that he always has food

Here a new friend in introduced, the Pirate. He is called as such because of his large, bushy, black beard. He is not grown up in the mind, despite his large size. He sells wood from a wheel barrow and is constantly accompanied by five dogs: Pajarito, Rudolph, Enrique, Fluff, and Senor Alec Thompson. Pilon, who knows everything about everyone, knows everything about the Pirate. The Pirate lives in a chicken house on Tortilla Flat, behind a deserted house, which he is not presumptuous enough to live in. Each morning he collects scraps of food from the back alley in Monterey-he gives the best food to the dogs. Each morning he recovers the ax that he buried the night before and cuts wood in the forest.

Pilon, who knows all, decides that since the Pirate makes twenty-five cents a day selling his wood and never spends this money, must have at least one hundred dollars. Since the Pirate does not have the brain to use this money and Pilon has a brain but no money, Pilon decides he must help the Pirate. Pilon realizes he cannot tell anyone, not even Pablo, about his idea because the idea might become less than virtuous-someone else might use the idea to take the Pirate’s money.

One night Pilon goes to see the Pirate, and wins his confidence with a cookie. The kind Pirate divides the cookie so that he, Pilon, and the five dogs have an equal share. Similar to when Pilon first found Jesus Maria, he convinces the Pirate that it is unhealthy for him to sleep outside as he has been doing. He tells him that he has many friends who are concerned for his health. The Pirate is touched that he has friends. Pilon tells the Pirate that he is aware of his hidden money and he should buy himself some clothes and food. The Pirate tells him that he has no money; he gives the daily earned twenty-five cents to an elderly woman.

Pilon does not believe that the Pirate gives away his money; he diligently tries to discover where it could be.

After a while, Pilon becomes frustrated and decides that he must seek the counsel of his friends. The men are swept up in a “philanthropic frenzy”(67) when they hear Pilon’s plan. They examine the situation from every angle and, finally, the humane Jesus Maria devises an ingenious solution: they will ask Jesus Maria to live with them. This way they can crack him with their kindness, or follow him at night to see where he hides the money.

The committee, comprised of the members of the house, visited the Pirate with the intention of getting him to come live with them. Pilon tells him that, as his friends, they are worried sick about his living conditions and they would feel better if he came to live with them. The Pirate accepts and tells them he will come the next day. When Danny sees how sad, lonely, and thus appreciative the Pirate is he remarks: “If I had known, I would have asked him long ago, even if he had no treasure” (69).

The Pirate and his dogs settle nicely into the house, sleeping within a blue circle that the dogs must stay within when in the house. The Pirate, for whom everyone felt kindliness, brought a great deal of food into the house from the local restaurants and wharves-which required only a little work to make edible. The men began to really live. The Pirated was touched by their acceptance of his gifts. The Pirate continues to cut and sell his wood-but because he does not want to miss a moment with his friends in the evening-he does not go every night to add his twenty-five cents to the hoard, which he apparently is keeping. The men grow tired watching the inactivity of the Pirate and decide they must take action. They tell stories about men who have hid their money with sad consequences. In response to these stories, the Pirate runs into the forest-with Pilon secretly following him. However, Pilon loses him, and the mystery continues.

The next night, Jesus Maria’s lady gives him a gallon of wine. The men decided to continue the stories and get a little wine into the Pirate, to get him to talk. That night Pilon, who hears all in the night, heard the Pirate and his dogs leave once everyone was asleep. Four of the men followed him. The men lose him once again. When the return home, the Pirate is happy and has brought the money to the house. He tells them that he has realized the money will be safe among his friends, who will guard it. The Pirate has saved almost two hundred dollars, and plans to buy a gold candle stick for Saint Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of animals) who he believes saved his sick dog (that was later killed by a truck).The men take this as a bitter defeat; the Pirate is moved by the love of his friends-to whom, he believes, he has finally proved his love and trust.

Next, Big Joe Portagee, who in the beginning of the story enlisted in the military along with Danny and Pilon, is reintroduced. Big Joe has spent most of his time during the war in military prison and is now released.

Upon returning home he headed to Torrelli’s, traded his coat for a gallon of wine, and headed out to find his friends. While he was unable to find his true friends, he did find harpies and pimps that led him to “the pit.” When his wine was all gone they tried to get him to leave, but he was comfortable. Big Joe got very angry, destroyed the place sending women screaming, and set the whole thing on fire. He was sentenced to thirty days. He did not mind his time in jail and slept for one-tenth of it. He is sad to hear that Danny and Pilon have not been booked recently-they usually passed through the jail.

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FREE Study Guide-Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck-Synopsis/Analysis


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