Study Guide

Tortilla Flat Friendship

By John Steinbeck


The whole plot of Tortilla Flat revolves around a group of pals who live in their buddy Danny's house. In fact, Steinbeck refers to the gang as a whole as "Danny's House" (yes, that's a capital H) because they become an institution in their community.

John Steinbeck was really into figuring out how groups of people work together, and this novel is no exception. Tortilla Flat is all about how a bunch of friends becomes a collective that is much greater than each dude on his own. The formation of Danny's House is what gives the novel its narrative arc, beginning with the moment Danny inherits the house and ending with the day it burns down.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Is the fact that it's Danny who owns the house important, or could any of the friends have been the one to bring the group together?
  2. Why do you think the guys separate at the end of the novel instead of going off in pairs or even as one big group?
  3. Why are the friends so tolerant of Big Joe, even when he steals from them?
  4. What are the other relationships in the novel that threaten or seem like they might be stronger than friendship? How does Danny's House deal with them?

Chew on This

Tortilla Flat shows how a group of friends is greater than the sum of its parts.

In Tortilla Flat, friendship is the only human bond that matters, rising above family, commerce, and romance