What does the liberal white suburbanite do when the walls around his community no longer keep out the forces of "nature" with which he is (formally) so much in love? T.C Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain approaches this question from a perspective of irony. The book's central character, Delaney Mossbacher, is a privileged resident of a California suburb who writes liberal and humanistic articles for the local paper. His wife Kyra represents the materialist and grasping side of the liberal family recipe. She sells real estate and is especially enthusiastic about the rise of the "gated community." As these two people go about their lives and deploy their liberal sentiments, they are about to have their most cherished ideals challenged by real human issues and, in the end, by the forces of nature. When Candido and America, poor immigrants from Mexico, take refuge in a ravine near Delaney and Kyra's suburban paradise, the world of hunger and hope begin to clash with the world of privilege and power. The question is, will Delaney Mossbacher's liberal ideals rise to meet the challenge of the actual human suffering found in his own back yard? This question will be answered in the following essay be means of a close reading of the final dramatic scene. As we shall see, it is those that suffer who rise to the brutal challenge of the forces of nature and not those who believe themselves to be the leaders and saviors of the oppressed.
The last chapter in the story emphasizes the grasp of reality that both Candido and Delaney have when their worlds collide. Delaney attempts to take justice into his own hands, with a gun, and confront the unsuspecting "Mexicans" who he blames for starting the fire that almost destroyed his home. When Delaney finds Candido and his family and is holding him at gunpoint, Candido comes to realize that his dream of acquiring a new home in America cannot happen.