Tortilla Flat | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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Tortilla Flat | Chapter 6 : How Three Sinful Men, Through Contrition, Attained Peace. How Danny's Friends Swore Comradeship. | Summary

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Summary

When Danny wakes up the morning after the fire, he pretends to feel angry at his friends and worried about losing prestige now that he owns only one house. But his "true emotion" is "relief that at least one of his burdens" is off his shoulders. He is also glad his friends will not be living in his second house anymore because he knows he missed out on many fun times with them. Still, he feels it is important to "discipline his friends," so he spends some time sitting in the sun, swatting flies, thinking up horrible things to say to Pilon, Pablo, and Jesus Maria.

Meanwhile, Danny's friends hide out in the woods, avoiding Danny's anger. They discuss whether to leave town, but Pilon says they should go to Danny and "confess ... like little children to a father."

During this conversation, a picnic begins in the woods near the hidden friends. Pilon wanders off to distract the picnickers while Pablo and Jesus Maria steal their lunch. Soon after, the friends march to Danny's house and fill his arms with gifts of sandwiches, deviled eggs, and other delicacies while Danny shouts insults at them. When Pilon produces the pink bra, Danny loses interest in shouting, and the friendship is restored.

The four friends feast on the stolen picnic, and Danny shares a quart of grappa. As everyone settles in, Danny says, "I want all of you to keep out of my bed." With that, it is decided Pablo, Pilon, and Jesus Maria will all be moving in. The friends sit contentedly by the fire, and Jesus Maria feels so grateful that he is moved to do something kind for Danny. He makes a vow "to see that there is always food in the house for Danny." This is a "beautiful" idea, so Pablo and Pilon agree immediately—but they don't really want such a huge responsibility.

Analysis

Danny, who never wanted material possessions, is secretly glad his friends burned down his second house. To him, the house was a "burden" and a barrier between himself and the fun he wants to have. Now that his friends have destroyed half his wealth, they will not owe him money anymore, and they will be more likely to include him in their shenanigans.

Although Pilon, Jesus Maria, and other characters tend to instigate more adventures, Danny is the center and moral leader of the group. This status is reflected both in his thoughts and in his friends' conversations. He feels an obligation to "discipline his friends," and Pilon speaks of him as a "father" figure. Danny occupies this role because he owns something the others do not, and because he does not care about ownership. By most people's standards, a few dollars' worth of food and a pink bra would not be adequate repayment for the loss of a house—but to Danny, it is plenty. His graciously accepts his friends into his home and asks nothing in return. The only acknowledgment he asks them to make of his status is to "keep out of [his] bed."

Danny's friends are all aware of how rare and lucky it is to have a friend who offers so much so unselfishly, without even seriously expecting them to pay rent. Danny is fulfilling the vow he made in Chapter 1—and now, in response, Jesus Maria makes a vow of his own. He promises to keep Danny fed. None of Danny's friends—including Jesus Maria himself, as soon as he has time to think about it—think this vow is a good idea. But once it is spoken, they cannot take it back.

As always in this story, good and evil forces are at work in every character. They are all still motivated by selfish desires, but the two vows are changing the patterns of their behavior. Danny is offering a home to people who otherwise have none, and Jesus Maria has created an obligation to share resources within the home. Pilon inwardly believes this vow will amount to "slavery," but outwardly he says only, "We shall be very happy living here."

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