True to Life

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Symbolism is largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, anti-idealistic movements which attempt to capture reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal. Accordingly, my interpretation of the novel The Tortilla Curtain by Thomas Coraghessan Boyle is that he uses two main symbols to express ideas: coyotes and walls. The coyote is a recurrent motif throughout the novel, and at the same time one of the strongest symbols of immigrants in the book. First, the author shows the real animal when the Mossbachers lose their dog, Sacheverell, to a coyote. The family is outraged and in order to keep out any other wild animals, they put up an even higher fence around their yard. But soon after that another coyote jumps over the fence again and eats their second dog, named Osbert. This event makes it clear to the Mossbachers that a fence is not effective at all and that there is not much else they can do against coyotes. At the same time, this shows that coyotes are willing to do anything to survive including entering unknown territory. Meanwhile, there is a neighborhood debate whether or not a gate should be installed, not to keep out coyotes, but: “the Salvadorans, the Mexicans, the blacks, the gangbangers and taggers and carjackers […]”(Boyle 39). Just as the Mossbachers try to keep out the coyotes, the neighborhood also tries to keep out illegal immigrants. But as much as higher fences do not protect the Mossbachers’ dogs against coyotes, a gate or a wall may not protect the development against illegal immigrants. Other arguments that the coyote resembles illegal immigration are found in Delaney’s column for a nature periodical. In this column, he mentions his own experiences with coyotes and their way of life: “One coyote, who makes his living on the fringes of my community […] has learned to simply chew his way through the plastic irrigation pipes whenever he wants to drink.”(Boyle 212). This is a definite parallel...
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