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Characters in “The Tortilla Curtain” by Boyle Essay

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2021

The Tortilla Curtain is a novel that touches upon the issues of racial discrimination, illegal immigration, and middle-class virtues. The story makes the reader realize that life is subjected to snobbism due to the social gap that existed between Latinos and Americans. Two couples, the Ricans and the Mossbachers have their outlooks on the American Dream. Delany Mossbacher is a full-fledged member of society who does not realizes the moral and material values thus being in constant discontent with the life he lives. He is a complex character that embodies the hatred for racial minorities and illegal immigrants.

The first two parts of the novel reveal Delany Mossbacher as round and dynamic. This could be in the character’s attitude the life and his constant discontent with the way he lives throughout the novel. Delany is a typical snob that is reluctant to appreciate the values already given to him. He is completely passive in his vision of life thus believing that white people should acquire everything without effort. Regarding this, Mossbacher functions as the measure of contrast between the poor and the rich classes. Delany takes his high social and material position for granted, as he is confident that white people deserve to live in a respectable community deprived of “illegal campers” (Boyle, 228). As the story develops, Delany becomes more racially prejudiced and intolerant due to the unpleasant encounters with the illegal immigrants from Mexico.

The character’s framed outlook on life and passiveness is uncovered through his actions. Delany, a representative of the white population, is identified with social acceptance and material welfare. In the very beginning, as Delany encounters a Mexican in a car accident, he treats him as a potential threat to society. When he realizes the injured man be a Mexican, Mossbacher sees him as an illegal immigrant. Instead of resorting to police, he pays him money explaining to his wife: “He is a Mexican” (Boyle, 15). At first, we could trace Delany’s liberalism and appraisal of racial minorities. Further, the story reveals his resentment and irritation as the reaction to the accidents taking place near his house thus negatively influencing his family. In the story, he is obsessed with conservative ideas of standardized behavior that prohibits surpassing the limits of permissible.

The main weakness of Mossbacher’s character is his being passive and reserved. His fear of evasion forces him to resort to the unexpected actions that contradict the philosophy of life. Though Delany supports the idea of the liberal society where Americans and Mexicans could work and cooperate, his weak spirit does not allow him to influence the event so that he is always manipulated by other people. In addition, his passiveness and refusal to act hamper his idea of American dream to come true.

In conclusion, the protagonist could be characterized as narrow-minded person with liberal views on his life. His disability to encounter the reality makes his life full of problems. Hence, Delany is the victim of the American Dream so that he is too blind to see that the world is not just black and white. His framed vision of life does not allow him to embrace the real material and moral values. Instead, he subconsciously follows the principles of the wealth class dictating him to perceive immigrant as something inacceptable.

Works Cited

Boyle, Coraqhessan T. The Tortilla Curtain. US: Penguin Books, 1996 pp. 3-257.

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