Tortilla Flat: Novel Summary: Chapter X-XI

Average Overall Rating: 5
Total Votes: 142

Chapter X
Jesus Maria is always on the lookout to do some kindness for someone. One day near the post office he sees a policeman coming along the sidewalk leading a young boy of about sixteen who is carrying a baby. The boy speaks Spanish, which the policeman cannot understand. But Jesus Maria can, and he learns that the boy came from Mexico looking for work but has found none. He was just sitting on the street, resting, when the policeman came and took him away. Jesus Maria tells the policeman that the boy is a friend of his, and that he will take him home. As they walk to Danny's the boy says he is a corporal, and his baby, who is now sick, will grow up to be a general. When they arrive home, Danny and his friends do everything they can to help. Pilon takes over, directing operations. They make the baby comfortable in a box padded with dry grass and lined with a sheepskin coat.
In the evening, the corporal tells his story. He says his wife is in Mexico. She was stolen from him by a captain. There was nothing he could do about it, so he went away, taking the baby with him. In Fresno, he met a man who told him he could make the baby into anything he wished. All you have to do is tell the baby over and over what you want him to do and become, and that is what happens. So twenty times a day the corporal tells his baby, Manuel, that he is going to be a general.
That night the baby dies. The corporal moans and says that now the baby can never become a general. Pilon tells him he must kill the captain. He had assumed that the reason the corporal wanted the baby to become a general was so that he could find and kill the captain. But the corporal says this was not his intention. He just wanted the baby to become a general so he could have a lot of power. After all, if a captain could steal his wife, imagine what a general could take! Danny says it is a fine thing that the corporal wanted the best for his son.
The corporal says he plans to return to Mexico. He is a soldier at heart. One day, he muses, he may become an officer. The six friends look admiringly at him. They are proud to have known him.
Chapter XI
One day, to get out of the rain, Big Joe Portagee runs into the nearest house, which happens to belong to Tia Ignacia, a forty-five- year-old widow. She invites him Big Joe to come and get dry, and offers him a glass of wine. They drink more than one glass together, and Tia Ignacia is kind to him, but he shows no acknowledgement of this. He doesn't even try to be friendly. Tia Ignacia really wants him to make love to her, but he shows no signs of being interested. She blew the light out, but all Big Joe does is fall asleep. Outraged, Tia Ignacia picks up a stick from her wood basket and begins to beat Big Joe and scream at him. She chases him out into the street, although he does not have a clue as to why she is so angry with him. He grabs her arms to stop her beating him. As he holds her tightly, desire arouses in him, and he makes love to her right there in the street, to the dismay of a passing policeman on a motorcycle, who tells them to get off the street before they get run over.
Chapter X is another story that illustrates the harm done by the existence of social hierarchies based on power rather than the benevolent egalitarianism based on friendship that the "knights?possess. The captain steals from the corporal and the corporal, accepting that this is just the way of things in society, wants his son to grow up to be a general, because a general is at the top of the tree and can take whatever he wants. The social system is therefore shown to be a corrupt one, in which the powerful exploit the weak. This shows yet again, by contrast, the ideals of the band of brothers, who are dedicated to friendship and mutual aid, not exploitation of one by the other.

Quotes: Search by Author