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

CHAPTER 5

How Saint Francis turned the tide and put a gentle punishment on Pilon and Pablo and Jesus Maria

Summary

Evening begins to set in on Monterey as the inception of this chapter. 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.

Notes

Once again present in this chapter is the motif of beauty in nature, which is free to everyone. Pablo and Pilon enjoy the serenity of nature while outback of the Torrelli’s restaurant. This bonding and camaraderie should be considered in contrast to the strain placed on friendship by material things - such as the concern over paying rent money to Danny, or what happens when Danny’s house gets burned.

While it is obvious that this chapter is important because of the destruction of Danny’s house due to the carelessness of his friends (thus fulfilling Pilon’s prophesy that it is not good to have so many things because you will be sad when they are gone), another important note to consider is the treatment of women in this novel.

In this story there are no strong female characters. In general, women are objectified and classified as sexual, bothersome creatures of whom men should be weary-in so far as these women have the potential to destroy male bonds. Particularly, in chapter five, Arabella Gross and Mrs. Torrelli are degraded and objectified. However, it is not only women that receive this treatment, it is many other groups of people who are classified and categorized: Italians, Jews, Portuguese. While no definitive answer is available, this is certainly an important topic of discussion. Considering that the main subjects of this novel are the underrepresented Paisanos-it is possible that Steinbeck is purposely interjecting prejudiced, pejorative statements in order to provoke thought and response.

By the end of this chapter, it appears that the relationship between Danny and his friends-Pilon, Pablo, and Jesus Maria, has undergone a marked change. Pilon’s original fear, that Danny owning property would affect their friendship, has come true. Ironically, it is Pilon’s fault for being irresponsible.

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