Introduction eyes and rotten teeth’ and goes


Tortilla Curtain is a book by Coraghessan Boyle about two families from different cultural and social backgrounds but living in the same community. The rich family represents the legal natives in California while the poor one represents the illegal immigrants.

Though it might be assumed that the two families have nothing in common in their cultural belief, the author is able to bring out some cultural similarities between the two. This essay will therefore compare and contrast the cultural differences between the two families highlighted by Boyle in his book.

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Boyle introduces Delaney Mossbacher portraying him as a rich American who resides in California. He has hit a man with his car who is later introduced as Candido Rincon. Delaney, who represents the wealthy class, describes Rincon as having ‘red-flecked eyes and rotten teeth’ and goes on to admit that his utmost worry is the damage caused to his car (Boyle 23). He is relieved when he finds out that Candido is still alive though in a very bad condition.

The two do not seem to understand each other at first as both speak different languages. However, Candido is able to pick out the offer by Delaney to take him to hospital, which he adamantly declines. All he wants is money to which Delaney hands him a twenty dollar bill and they each go their own way (Boyle 30).

The author highlights the struggles by Candido after the accident. He is unable to feed his family due to the injuries incurred. He cannot get a job anymore at the local work exchange where he temporarily worked before the crash. Delaney on the other hand is also experiencing problems.

One of his treasured pet dogs has been killed by a coyote and he is not taking the matter lightly. Besides, the community wall has just been brought down by a fire caused by Candido.

Cultural Similarities Depicted

One of the cultural similarities prevalent in the book is racism. This is evident throughout the novel and in most instances brought out by the author. Delaney portrays his hatred against the Mexicans whom he views as illegal immigrants. He sees them to be from a different class than him and this is evident when he tells his lawyer that Candido would not likely sue him as he had given him “$ 20 blood money” and that “He’s a Mexican” (Boyle 36).

The fact that he is just a Mexican consoles his guilty conscience of subjecting him to so much pain when he hit him with his car. Likewise, America comes into contact with Mary on her first day at work and she describes her as “dirty” and “poverty stricken”. However, America argues that it is not fair for Mary to be searching for a similar job like she was as she was an American.

The two scenarios draw similar conclusion based on racial prejudice. Delaney’s character of viewing people outside his social class as not being worth any attention correlates to the idea of America’s belief that anyone who is not an illegal immigrant is rich and capable of fending themselves without having to struggle.

The other cultural similarity brought out is the height of problems experienced by the two couple. Candido is depressed since he can no longer cater for his family’s needs and is forced to go to the street to look for food. Similarly, Delaney is also depressed as his dog has just been killed by a coyote. Though the level of problems seems to differ, each person is bothered and distressed by the tragedy that has befallen them.

Cultural Differences Depicted

The cultural difference between the two families is introduced by the author as a theme describing the role of gender in the community. Both families live a different lifestyle in the same community. They both view and interpret the role of women in the society differently.

When America decides to take up a job to help bring food to the table, Candido feels ashamed and threatened by her action. He does not seem to take it kindly that a woman should be the one feeding her family while the man is present. On the contrary, Delaney does not seem to be bothered with the fact that his wife Kyra, a real agent, is the breadwinner of the family.

The cultural difference can be attributed to the level of education that each character possesses and the different social classes. Delaney appears to be educated and he even writes in the local nature magazine as opposed to Candido, who has been described as an illegal immigrant “trying to live the American dream” (Boyle 42).

On the other hand, Candido is depicted as living on the edge and struggling to make ends meet whilst Delaney hails from the middle class clan in California. These two opposing characters view the culture of allowing women to work for them differently.

The other cultural difference is their cultural beliefs regarding luck. Both seem to interpret their luck differently. The Rincons seems to be more superstitious attributing it to their unluckiness.

They blame nature for giving them bad luck in their life. They believe that their life is the way it is due to the fact that they are immigrants and not Americans. This is contrary to the Mossbacher’s family who instead blame other people for their downfall. Delaney, for example blames the Mexicans for littering the city and making his life unbearable.


Contrasting and comparing cultural differences can be challenging but interesting if the reader understands the concept of the book. In our case, Tortilla Curtain discusses the role of the rich versus the poor in an intelligent manner. The poor are the immigrants who are from a different social class from the natives.

They both have a culture that they believe in but their beliefs are influenced by the social classes that they are both in (Ainslie 23). Boyle is able to bring out this cultural differences and similarities in both families brilliantly. Tortilla Curtain is therefore a book worth reading.

Works Cited

Ainslie, Ricardo. “Social Class and its Reproduction in immigrants’ Construction of Self.”

Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society. 2009: 213-224. Print.

Boyle, Coraghessan. The Tortilla Curtain. New York: Viking Press, 1995. Print.