Study Guide

Tortilla Flat Rules and Order

By John Steinbeck

Rules and Order

Bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

In Tortilla Flat, pretty much anything, actually.

The characters in this novel pretty much live their lives outside of the law, but somehow, it's not really that big of a deal for anyone involved. To Danny and his friends, the rules are seen as a sort of a challenge rather than a system of, you know, crime and punishment. Some of the guys—we're looking at you, Big Joe—even enjoy being in jail.

While they steal and scheme from each other and their neighbors, the gang also has its own code of ethics that it lives up to and enforces. It's kind of a parallel universe with parallel laws, and it's located in Tortilla Flat, California.

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. How are the army and the jail similar in the novel? How are they different?
  2. Does Danny really have "great respect for the law"? How do you know?
  3. What do the characters think about prison in the novel? What is their reaction to the consequences of their actions?

Chew on This

The novel shows how the inhabitants of Tortilla Flat throw rules and order out the window.

In Tortilla Flat, there are two levels of rules and order: the law, and the unspoken code of the friends.