Free «"Tortilla Curtain" by T. C. Boyle» Essay Paper
The book Tortilla Curtain was written by American author known as T.C. Boyle. Boyle primarily talks about key issues that affected citizens in the 1900s and how factors like illegal immigration, poverty and pollution influenced the middle-class people. The book enhances understanding the past and current world through the usage of several styles and themes. Among many styles that were employed in the book, symbolism is a major technique that has been used to make the readers understand the message passed on quickly. The Tortilla Curtain is made up of themes like the wall, racism, the American dream, luck, superstition, and racism as well as some other themes. One central theme is the use of the symbol of coyote and several other animals. This essay discusses how coyote in the novel has been used to represent important themes like racism, social class, borders and margins as well as the hierarchical power of immigrants ("The Tortilla Curtain Themes").
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Throughout the novel, Boyle shows us the life of illegal immigrants and how they are racially discriminated, suffer, and adapt to harsh conditions from negative racial attitude. Though their life is hard as shown through the experience faced by the two illegal immigrants Cándido and América, coyotes are used to symbolize the racist attitude towards the life of the settlers in America. The coyote is a canine animal that is originally found in the North and the Central America. It resembles a wolf but and interbreed with wolfs becoming more adaptive than any other canine. Coyotes have occupied many urban areas, and their population is increasing in their foreign territories. This character of coyotes is the main reason the drove Boyle to use this symbol to explain the life of the Mexican immigrants since it is similar. Firstly, the book starts by displaying the real character of the animal in the event where it took down mossbachers family dog called sacheverell. Arising from the loss of their dog and fear of their security, the family decides to make their wall higher. However, as if it were not enough, the coyote still will risk and take a leap of faith and kill the second dog Ossbert. Now, there was nothing more to do with the coyotes since when facing a lot of dangers, they will do anything to survive with their family. According to Boyle, the neighborhood saw the need to even erect a gate so as to keep away the immigrants: “The Salvadorians, the Mexican immigrants, blacks, the gangbangers, and taggers and carjackers” (p.39). Coyotes have been used to represent the immigrants due to their behavior of surviving in all kinds of conditions when entering the hostile territory. Similarly to the way the neighbors keep away immigrants, the mossbachers are keeping away coyotes. This is a clear indication of racism as an issue. More so, in the novel, there is no single place where the reader comes across two different races having a dialogue. When Delaney first meets Candido in the accident, he gives the description of Candido as a feral thing that threw himself across the way like a mad man (Boyle 4). Thus, even before he realizes him as an immigrant, he has concluded that Candido in an unthinking animal. This symbolism is intensely visible when Candido meets a stranger in the forest; the person gave him a pathetic look like that of a dog when he asked for food. Though Candido is afraid of the man, he could not resist the drive in his stomach to get food and the persistent thoughts of his pregnant wife (Boyle 90). Candido’s sufferings started in his home country. Thre, he faced difficulties due to the political instability and economic hardships; as if it was not enough, Candido’s wife was expectant. He persuaded her to accompany him to America though he was frightened (Boyle 53). This fear is similar to that of the coyote; hence, the coyote is used to represent the fear that was felt by the immigrants. The theme of racial discrimination is evident in this encounter.
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In the novel, the animal is a representation of how social class has been developed. Delaney explains that “The coyote is not to take the blame—but it is only trying to live through hardship. Hence they have to be opportunistic to survive" (p.215). This statement is directed to the coyotes; however, in real sense, this description fits immigrants. The coyotes in the book are described as opportunistic, and will take advantage of social amenities and other development structures in the community. Delaney’s description of the coyotes perfectly fits the character of Candido. In the book, Candido becomes opportunistic and must seize any chance in the community so as to survive. To feed his family, Candido resorts to stealing for the sake of his family and even does not hesitate when he was offered a turkey. This is clear that the immigrants with reference to Candido who have adapted to their environment are symbolised by the coyotes who are also good at the same. Speaking about social discrimination and division, the immigrants have been seen as animals that do not even have the right to associate with the whites. From the way the whites perceive the immigrants, it is an accurate representation of social class.
Across the book, the author explains how immigrants jump across the Mexico-America border walls. The coyote is employed in the novel to represent margin and borders. While Candido was crossing the border, he encountered coyotes of his kind who are the Mexican men. Those coyotes’ work was to create a safe passage to those who wanted to go to America. However, despite the fact that they promised safety to the immigrants, the Mexicans viewed them as the real coyotes since they would flee away when they got apprehended (Boyle 59). Hence, in the novel, coyote is used as a secondary symbol that represents the betrayer. In the beginning of the book, it is described that there existed different kinds of coyotes in the community. Jose Navidad is another representation of the coyote who drives the theme of walls and borders. Jose is the bad guy in the novel; he is a rapist and intruder. In the book, Candido feels that his space has been intruded by Jose: “Now he had to worry about this man pendejo who was nosing all over down through the valley like he did not have enough problems yet ”(p. 90). More so, Jose and his counterpart raids at the real estate that was being sold by Kyra; Jose does this to his advantage. Contrary to Candido’s intrusion purposes, Jose intrudes for his selfish desires. On the other hand, Candido is forced by the suffering of his family and hunger. Therefore, Jose and the immigrants need to cross borders to live and are described as the real coyotes.
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Coyote represents the hierarchical power of the immigrants. As Delaney’s anger and racist behavior increase, he also compares the Mexican opinions to the coyotes’. The appearance of the coyote now takes another twist of quality. First, they are seen to occupy and intrude their community out of hunger and desperation. Firstly, it is seen that coyotes also attack for food but not for pleasure. However, later “The Coyotes continues to come, breeding up to fill in the, moving in where the living is easy” (Boyle 215). More so, Coyotes are cunning, versatile, hungry, and undetectable The qualities of the coyotes have changed, and now they want to own the community. Afterwards, Jack also raises the question why the immigrants have put writings on the walls saying the they are acting out of animal reflex marking their territory (Boyles 316). Daley accepts Jack’s suggestion since also by proxy; the aliens owned the country. Hence, the coyote is a symbol of the hierarchical power over the gated society and symbolizes the theme of borders and margin.
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In conclusion, the use of a coyote as a symbol in The Tortilla Curtain becomes more dynamic as the story progresses. At first, the reader is introduced to Candido and America as wild animals who are driven by hunger and hard life in the jungle. The metaphor later becomes more complicated since the earlier belief shifted because the whites created another perception that they were hungry for power and ownership of the American suburb. It is later understood that the coyote is a temporary representation of a state of being.