Tortilla Flat: Novel Summary: Chapter XVI-XVII
After his return, Danny lives listlessly with his friends, as if he doesn't care about anything. He doesn't bother to join in the discussions. The friends worry about him and try to draw him out. But nothing works. Danny seems old and there is no light in his eyes.
Pilon gives him the last of the wine, and this seems to stir some life in Danny. The friends decide that what Danny needs is more wine and a party. To raise the money, they decide that for once in their lives they will get a job for a day, packing squids. Word spreads quickly through the town that a party is going to held for Danny, and that everyone is going. Everyone joins in with the preparations and there is great excitement. When Danny goes out in the afternoon, people come to decorate the house and bring food. The friends return from their job happy.
But when darkness begins to fall, Danny, who has been wandering aimlessly around Monterey, still has not returned. His friends go out to look for him. Pilon and Pablo find him and tell him they are having a party for him. Danny, who has just confessed to them that he doesn't want to do anything, seems excited by the prospect of the party, and they hurry home.
The party is a wild one, with drinking, dancing, fighting and love-making. A legend later sprang up that Danny alone drank three gallons of wine. At one point, Danny brandishes a table leg, challenging anyone who will dare to a fight. But no one responds. Danny now appears to have taken on superhuman form and strength, and he goes outside, saying that he will find "The Enemy?who is worthy of him. The people in the house hear an answering challenge from "Danny's Opponent,?and hear Danny rush to the fray. Then there is a cry of defiance from Danny, a thump, and then silence.
After a few moments of stunned silence, Pilon and the others rush out to search for Danny. Pilon finds him at the bottom of a gulch. He must have fallen forty feet. He is still alive, and doctors are summoned, as well as Father Ramon. Danny is carried up the hill and laid on his bed, where he dies.
Danny's body is embalmed, and elaborate arrangements are made for his funeral. Danny's friends are in despair because their clothes are so old and ragged that they will be unable to attend the funeral. Everyone else is planning on wearing their best clothes. They decide that they will watch the funeral procession lying in the grass on the sidewalk. This is the best solution they can come up with, and they feel they have failed.
On the morning of the funeral, the friends tell one another stories about Danny, praising his goodness, courage and piety. They go to the church and stand across the street watching as the funeral procession enters the church. The five friends are so ashamed that they cannot go that they hurry away from the scene. They steal some wine from Torrelli's and then return to Danny's house. A lighted match thrown to the floor causes the house to catch fire. The men do not mind, and they leave quietly. By the time the fire trucks come, the entire house is ablaze. Danny's friends stand and watch until only a mound of cinders remains.
The last two chapters present a kind of tragicomic conclusion to the tale. Comedy always ends with festivities and celebrations, and this explains the need for the great party at the end. Danny's death is presented as a parody of a heroic death. He supposedly goes down fighting a worthy, supernatural opponent, but in truth, he staggers out of the house drunk and falls down a cliff. But perhaps his death really is heroic in the sense that at the party he overcomes, in one brilliant burst, his lethargy and despair (the cause of which is never really explained) and lives life, for one last time, to the full. His death can therefore be seen, as the narrator comments in the last chapter, as "one last glorious, hopeless assault on the gods.?Danny's death inevitably means that the group of friends must part and go their own separate ways ("And after a while they turned and walked slowly away, and no two walked together?. They know this instinctively as they watch the house, the visible symbol of their fraternal bond, burn to the ground.