In The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle, the author repeatedly draws parallels between the actual coyote and the figurative coyote. Boyle uses the actual coyote to show how the animal actually is. In this novel the coyote acts as a symbol for many things. Boyle parallels the figurative coyote with Jose Navidad who is portrayed as the bad character in the novel. Boyle also uses the coyote to parallel the illegal immigrants and the way the coyote lives. Candido is one of the main characters in the novel that is an illegal Mexican and is paralleled to the coyote. Boyle points out how the coyote is symbolic of illegal aliens. He also shows the meanings of the literal coyote to the real animal itself. In each of these cases, we see how the coyote plays an important role in The Tortilla Curtain. The coyote in this novel is symbolic towards the characters? actions and their way of life.
In the first part of the novel entitled ?Arroyo Blanco? we see how Boyle uses the literal coyote to portray the real animal. The Mossbacher family consists of Delaney, Kyra, and Jordan. They own two terrier dogs named Sacheverell and Osbert. One night a coyote jumps over and eats Sacheverell. The family is heart broken over this so they put up an even higher fence to keep out any unwanted animals. Again, the coyote jumps over the fence and eats the other dog named Osbert. It seems as though the coyote will do whatever is has to do to survive. Even if that means breaking and entering. The homeowners association is trying to put up a gate to keep out ?the Salvadorans, the Mexicans, the blacks, the gangbangers, and taggers and carjakers??(pg 39). Boyle uses the coyote as a symbol of breaking in and taking whatever he wants. Even though the Mossbachers put up an even higher fence, it still did not keep the coyote out, just as the gate may not keep out the illegal aliens. Delaney is outraged at the fact that the coyotes have eaten his dogs. They are trying to keep the coyotes out, just as they are trying to keep all the illegal aliens out of Arroyo Blanco. They want to keep the intruders out.
Boyle also uses the coyote as a symbol to parallel with the illegal aliens. Delaney Mossbacher writes a monthly column in the paper that is about nature. In one of his columns he talks about how the coyotes live compared with the illegal Mexicans.
? 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 a drink.? (Pg 212). This is one of the quotes from Delaney?s column. In this quote Delaney is talking about how the coyote lives just like the illegal Mexicans. This is a definite parallel to Candido. Candido is an illegal Mexican who is living in the hills trying to live off the land. This is very much like the coyotes life. He too lives off the land. Delaney also talks about having the Los Angeles county animal control ?trap and euthanize? the coyotes. This is very much like the la migra coming to pick up all the illegal immigrants standing on the corner waiting for work. Boyle uses the coyote to symbolize how they live and how Candido lives. Both are very similar. Boyle points out that coyotes live off the land, as does Candido. Candido is just like the coyote because he too is living off the land and is using other people?s stuff to survive. Both Candido and the coyote are intruding on other people?s property taking whatever they feel is necessary to survive.
Another person the has the resemblance of the coyote is Jose Navidad. Like the coyote, Jose Navidad is also an intruder. He is described as a tall pale man with between yellow and red eyes. Candido spots Jose at the top of the trail coming down into the canyon. They exchange a few words and Jose leaves. Candido feels that Jose is intruding on his space. ?Now he had to worry about this stinking crack-toothed pendejo nosing around down in the canyon, as if he didn?t have enough problems already.? (Pg 90). Candido is now very worried that Jose may come down to his camp and steal all of his stuff. Jose Navidad is much like the coyote because the coyote intrudes on other people?s space just as Jose has. Later on in the novel Jose goes down to the camp and rapes Candido?s wife America. Jose has intruded on their space and took what he wanted. In this case he rapes America. Also, Jose and his friend are found on the Da Ros property. This is one of Kyra?s properties that she is trying to sell. Kyra confronts Jose and she asks him what he is doing here. Jose says they are just hiking and that they don?t know this area very well. Kyra tells the two men that they are on private property and they must leave. Later on when Kyra comes back to the Da Ros place she sees Pinche Puta written on the side of the house. This shows the character of Jose Navidad. He is an intruder who intrudes on other people?s property and does what he pleases. This is just like the coyote. The coyote also goes from place to place taking what he wants.
In each of these cases we have seen how Boyle uses his character?s actions to portray the coyote. The coyote has intruded on the Mossbacher?s property just as Jose Navidad has intruded on the Da Ros property. In Delaney?s column he wrote that they are trying to kick out all the immigrants just as they are trying to ?trap and euthanize? the coyotes. Boyle also uses Candido to try and portray how the coyote lives. The way Candido and America live is much similar to the way the coyote lives. In each instance we can see that they both scavenge around and try to live off of the land. In one of Delaney?s columns he writes that the coyote has adapted. We can see how Candido has adapted to his surroundings just like the coyote has. In all of these cases we see how the coyote resembles some part of the characters. The coyote has proved to be a symbol in this novel because many of the character?s actions have resembled part of the coyote.