Tortilla Flat (1935)

John Steinbeck, that more than clever author, kindles the embers of emotion, igniting a varied hue and color. Tortilla Flat manages to blend an all too simple framework into a complex web that as unraveled gives us the best of life’s necessities: friendship, love, humanitarianism, selflessness, contemplation, and a perdurable wine supply.

Taking place in Monterrey, CA affords a two-fold motif and setting: the new and the old. The old being the Native and the Spanish. The new being the American and the Immigrant. This dichotomy lends itself to classical literary elements in the rise of a modern/post-modern Western-American form. A country, a people really, defining who they are and their purpose. Tortilla Flat is at times lively, in other moments steeped in deep reverie, yet never failing to engage its audience. A work with such literary force imparts valuable interpretation in the chambers of the English tradition. Of particular note is the language used by our Paisanos. A language that remains absolutely unforgettable and distinctly pointed. A language that resembles older forms of English complete with: thee, thou, dost, goest, knewest, keepest, etc. The dialect accentuates the tale’s opening and impending developments, beckoning to Arthurian Legend (prose and all). Tortilla Flat is part of  a noble historic mystic human tradition. In many facets it is our Beowulf. The story stretches itself into a romantic adventure tale wherein camaraderie materializes at the heart.

This place, this time, these people, and their stories are open to nearly any level of reader. In it we find a short novel that is clearly accessible and utterly satisfying.


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Filed under essays, reading

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