Study Guide

Tortilla Flat Chapter 8: How Danny's Friends sought mystic treasure on Saint Andrew's Eve. How Pilon found it and later how a pair of serge pants changed ownership twice.

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 8: How Danny's Friends sought mystic treasure on Saint Andrew's Eve. How Pilon found it and later how a pair of serge pants changed ownership twice.

  • Big Joe Portagee spends a lot of time in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct, so he gets back to town six months later than his friends do after the war.
  • On Big Joe's first day back, he gets wasted. He's got no money to pay his tab, he breaks all the furniture, and he sets fire to the bordello where he's drinking. He's relieved when he gets sent back to jail.
  • After Big Joe gets out, he decides to look for his friends Pilon, Danny, and Pablo. He runs into Pilon just as Pilon's headed out for some treasure hunting. It turns out that it's Saint Andrew's Eve, a night when all the buried treasure is supposed to glow, making it easier to find.
  • Pilon and Big Joe go out into the forest together, and they see a blue light shining out of the ground. Pilon makes a cross out of sticks to ward off any evil spirits, and he claims the treasure. He tells Big Joe that he's planning to give the treasure to Danny to thank him for letting them live with him.
  • Pilon and Big Joe wait until the next day to dig up their treasure. They go back to Tortilla Flat to sleep and get tools.
  • Joe moves into Danny's house without really even having to ask. He and Pilon grab some of Mrs. Morales's tools and head back to the X-marked spot. Big Joe confesses that he told someone he had found a treasure—and used that story to get credit to buy some wine. Then he confesses that he also left the guy who sold him wine one of Danny's blankets as collateral until he could bring in his dollar from the treasure.
  • Pilon is totally angry with Big Joe for stealing Danny's blanket and makes Big Joe do all the digging as part of his punishment.
  • Finally, Big Joe hits metal, and he and Pilon see a big slab of concrete with a metal plate embedded into it that says: "UNITED STATES GEODETIC SURVEY + 1915 + ELEVATION 600 FEET." Pilon has seen these metal pieces before: someone else dug one up and tried to sell it, and it cost him a year in jail.
  • Pilon is so disappointed about his lost treasure that he feels he can't go back to Danny's. He and Big Joe go to the beach and get tanked there until they pass out.
  • When Pilon wakes up he steals Big Joe's pants and takes them into town to Mrs. Torrelli. He talks her into trading him a quart of wine for the pants. When she goes back in to make dinner, he steals back the pants—and Danny's blanket—and goes back to the beach.
  • Big Joe is buried in the sand up to his waist, trying to hide his naked legs from a nearby Girl Scout troop. Pilon gives him his pants back, and they go back home.