The Tortilla Curtain
Winner of the Prix Medicis Etranger Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an ordered sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: he a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor. Mexican illegals Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine. And from the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delaney into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.
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Which literary element is the author using to emphasize the tense tone of the situation?
Watch the video below about character development. How has the opening scene of the book and Delaney's thoughts,as he searches for the man he hit, developing his character? (This annotation contains a video)
What impression of the car accident victim are you given from Delaney's point of view?
What does the injured man want from Delaney?
What is the reason Delaney is so fixated on the man's injuries?
Why does Delaney assume the man was an illegal immigrant? Could there be another reason he would refuse aid?
Is Delaney angry because illegal immigrants are dirty, or because people in general are thoughtless and litter? How is he connecting the two concepts?
What does Delaney mean when he says he recognized the men with a "shock of recognition"?
What do we learn of Kyra's character from the quick description Delaney gives in the highlighted passage?
Reread this sentence. In this context, what does the phrase "before the words could turn to ash in his mouth" mean?
Which literary element does the author use to describe Candido's injuries?
Gabacho is a Spanish term for an English-speaking, non-Hispanic person. Is this a complimentary or derogatory term?
Below is a picture of the ancient holy site of Chalma. Why would Candido feel like he was a penitent crawling to Chalma? (This annotation contains an image)
What emotion does the personification emulate for America?
What does Candido relate to his condition?
Did Candido jump or did Delaney hit him accidently?
What is America's solution to the idea that Candido is dead?
What is Candido's primary motivation for objecting to America going to the exchange for work?
Despite his fear, Candido doesn't tell America the true reason he doesn't want her to go. Why doesn't he tell her the truth?
Annie Dillard is the author of a popular book called Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It was a book that focused on nature and the human connection to nature. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does the author repeatedly mention the dogs barking?
Who does Delaney blame for the coyote incident?
How does Delaney feel about the idea of a gated community?
What does Kyra's reaction and actions show her true character?
Why is this speaker so adament that the gate not be built?
Both Delaney and Jack Cherrystone claim to care about the poor. What do they really care about?
Why does Jack Jr. want to know where the immigrants are living?
Why does America return to the work exchange?
Why does Candido become a drunkard?
Why is stream water bad for us to drink?
Who can we guess has come for Candido?
Despite the possible danger, America feels at home at the work exchange. Why?
Why does the exchange close at noon?
How did America's border crossing harden her from the world?
What do you think would have happened if Jack Jr. and his friends found Candido or America?
Is Delaney in danger on his walk home?
Why is Delaney feeling guilty?
Use the Define tool. In this context, which synonym most closely agrees with peculiar?
How is Sacheverell's death affecting Kyra's work?
How does Kyra feel about Arroyo Blanco?
Why does Kyra want to stay at the house and not go home?
Both Kyra and Delaney try to escape their home lives. Kyra runs away to her real estate business and Delaney runs away to his writing. How are they avoiding problems by doing so?
We know Delaney did not spend the night on any such adventure the night before. Why does he write this ode to coyotes given what happened?
How is the hunger and injury affecting Candido and America's relationship?
Why is it a mistake for America to accept the coffee?
Watch the video below about foreshadowing. How does the incident with Jose Navidad foreshadow America's story? (This annotation contains a video)
Is Candido projecting his injured pride on America's actions?
Why does Candido choose this location for their new home?
Why does Candido feel threatened by Jose Navidad?
America believes she will get paid more based on the time she has worked. What does this say of her character?
Why is America working so hard while Mary is not working at all? What are their different motives for their actions?
Why does the patron treat America so badly in the highlighted passage?
Delaney is offended by Jack's racist comments. Think back to when he hit Candido with the car. Is Delaney being hypocritical?
Does Delaney recognize Candido or does he just relate all Mexican men to his experience with the car?
Why is Kyra reluctant to sell the Da Ros's house?
Why does Delaney have writer's block?
What upsets Delaney about the camp?
Why is Delaney angry with himself?
This is the third encounter with Jose Navidad. This is the third time the person who encounters him feels threatened. What do you think Jose Navidad symbolizes?
Who does Delaney think stole his car?
What emotion is clouding Candido's joy about America earning money?
While Candido is injured by his pride, what emotion is America's pride experiencing?
What does this new home represent to both Candido and America?
Despite their hardships, America still believes they can get an apartment. What motivates this dream?
Despite knowing what the patron did to her last time, America still decides to go with him for work. Why?
Why did the patron forget to give her gloves this time?
America was willing to work for the patron despite his sexual harrassment, but isn't willing to work with the solution. Why not?
Which is more dangerous- staying at the store or going to her home?
Should America stay at the store or should she return home?
What is America comparing the Jose Navidad and his Indian friend to?
Arroyo Blanco Quiz
This is the second time Delaney has a problem with his car in broad daylight and people ignored it. How does this continue the theme of benign neglect?
What is making Delaney feel violated?
How does their decision to keep nature out of their yard similar to Arroyo Blanco's gate around their community?
Why is Kyra behaving so aggressively towards the man?
What is Delaney doing?
Delaney's racism presents itself in the form of concern for the environment. How does Kyra's racism present itself?
Why is Kyra upset about the shopping cart?
Watch the video below about dramatic irony. How is this first meeting with Kyra and Jose Navidad dramatic irony? (This annotation contains a video)
Reread the highlighted passage. How has Candido relied on this advice already in the book?
In the highlighted phrase, the word fatalism is used. Use the define tool. What is the fatalism that Candido is thinking about?
Why does America lie to Candido?
Why does America admire the coyote?
Why is Candido so angry and drunk?
Kyra claims she isn't proud of what she did, but is that the truth?
What is your first impression of Dominic Flood?
Who should we believe attacked Sunny?
Why is Delaney concerned about the fact that their community has closed the work exchanges?
What is Candido raging against?
Why is Candido ashamed?
What do we learn about racism from this highlighted passage?
The stranger just stated that being on the street is no place for America, yet Candido leaves her there to look for a place to stay. Why would he do that?
Who does Delaney blame for the coyote problem?
Kyra loves the De Ros place, but since her encounter with Jose Navidad, she has begun to dislike it. How has Jose's presence create the same effect for others in the story?
Delaney states that the wall is about exclusion and hate. How does Kyra's response validate this claim?
What keeps Delaney from doing what he believes is right?
Why is Delaney shocked at his behavior and his thoughts?
Is America becoming hard, cynical because of her experience?
Should Candido have suspected what the man was after?
How does Delaney's idea for his new column mimic the immigration story?
This is an example of a walled and gatd community. The white area is the wall. This is what they are building in Arroyo Blanco. (This annotation contains an image)
Reread the highlighted passage. Why are Delaney and Kyra so happy?
What broke America's spirit?
What is Candido trying to escape by drinking the beers?
Why does the music sound so jarring to Delaney?
What caused the brush fire in the canyon?
Below is a picture of a plane dropping the fire retardant on a brush fire. Similar to the one in the story. (This annotation contains an image)
What changes America's bitterness and hatred towards Candido?
Watch the video below on imagery. Then reread the passage of Candido and America's escape. How is the imagery describing the urgency of the fire? (This annotation contains a video)
Why is the stench of the fire the worst smell to Candido?
Kyra and Delaney are safe, their wealth is intact, so why are they angry at each other?
This is another example of dramatic irony. We know that Candido and America started the fire, but Jose Navidad and the Indian are being blamed. Does this irony satisfy our need for revenge? Why?
Read the highlighted passage. What is the symbolism of them being outside their wall?
Why was Dom so interested in Kit?
Socorro is a Spanish-Portuguese word meaning help or relief. How is this an appropriate name for the baby?
Why is Candido working so hard to justify his stealing from the dog?
What is ironic about Candido using the aluminum ladder?
What happens to Dame Edna?
Why is Kyra mourning the loss of the De Ros house?
Delaney claims that Jack stripped away the last of his liberal humanism. Did Jack strip it away or did Delaney do this himself?
Why is Delaney taking this mission on?
Why does Candido think America would be better off without him?
Candido feels he is brutal when he tells the truth to America, but is he just brutally honest?
Why is baptism so important to America?
Why is Candido quiet when America repeats her hatred of America?
Why is Delaney confronting Candido?
Why does no one care about Delaney's information on Candido?
Kyra mentions several times that she needs to spend more time with Jordan. Is this a true desire or a rote response when work is getting to her?
What intention does Delaney have in hunting Candido down?
What motivates Delaney to trash the photos and ignore the true culprit?
What does America think caused Socorro's blindness?