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FREE Study Guide-Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck-Book Summary
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CHAPTER ANALYSIS AND NOTES - Tortilla Flat

CHAPTER 4

How Jesus Maria Corcoran, a good man, became an unwilling vehicle of evil

Summary

Pilon and Pablo continue on quite nicely. Their lives are very peaceful and relaxed; they spend much time together and out in nature. They discuss topic both philosophical-what if rain was diamonds, or wine-and ephemeral - Cornelia Ruiz, a good woman who has masses sung for her dead father, has cut a black Mexican whom she was with, but in whom she no longer had any interest. Danny is apparently now with Rosa Martin, a Portagee girl. Pablo and Pilon worry that Danny will marry her and bother them for rent. They decided to talk to Danny about this new relationship he has-to warn him of the perils of women.

The men find Danny on his front porch and begin with the mention of Cornelia Ruiz and the Mexican. They begin a diatribe of how evil women can be. Pilon tells Danny that he has heard bad things about Rosa Martin. Danny simply asks, what can you expect of a Portagee. Pilon and Pablo are relieved and ask how Mrs. Morales chickens are (remember, Pilon rigged the fence so some may escape, and he would catch and eat them). Danny tells them that they all died due to bad string beans that she fed them. He said even though they were cautioned against it, they scraped the insides clean and sold them to the butcher. When asked if Danny bought some wine with the money, Danny slyly says that Mrs. Morales did last night and that she is sometimes pretty, and not so old.


Once again, Pilon and Pablo become nervous. Pilon tells Danny that he has heard Mrs. Morales is fifty years old! Danny says that she is lively, owns her own house, and has two hundred dollars in the bank. He would like to make her a present. Danny insinuates that he would like some rent money to buy her a box of candy. Pilon and Pablo become anger and stalk off-claiming that Danny is always complaining about the rent, that he is a miser and a Jew.

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.

Notes

As was stated in the Preface, this is the story of Danny’s friends and of Danny’s house. The round table, with which Steinbeck compared this crew, is growing. As always, Pilon is scheming in order to find wine, food, and comfort from the anxiety of paying Danny. In a trickster fashion, he makes Jesus Maria believe that he is sick when he is not, in order to get his money. Also, keeping with the predictability of his character, Pilon chooses badly and decides to buy Danny wine instead of paying rent as he is supposed to do.

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