Steinbeck wrote the short novel Tortilla Flat in the summer and fall of 1933 and it was published in 1935 (Railsback and Meyer 2006, p. 215). Steinbeck was described as non-teleological, influenced largely by his “orientation in cosmology” (Ariki, Li and Pugh 2008, p. 173). Steinbeck was influenced by biology, zoology, physics, philosophy and mythical studies and after writing and publishing Tortilla Flat, became a close friend of Ed Ricketts an animal ecologist engaged at Chicago University. Influenced by these disciplines, Steinbeck’s non-teleological thinking was geared toward conceptualizing what “is” rather than what should be (Arike, Li and Pugh 2008, p. 173).
Benson (1990) informs that Steinbeck consistently reflected his non-teleological thinking throughout the 1930s-1950s and was particularly suing this thinking through his Mexican-American characterizations (p. 31). In this regard, Tortilla Flat is an exercise in “what is, rather than what should be” (Benson 1990, p. 32). The novel introduces the reader to this teleological thinking through Danny, a Mexican American recently returned from military services to the news that he had inherited wealth. Weighted by the responsibility of new found wealth, Danny drinks and goes on a drunken rampage which ends with a one month sentence in jail. Rather than pondering his plight he adjusts to his situation and becomes one with it. Steinbeck’s (1986) Danny does not pause to agonize over his incarceration. Nor he is preoccupied with cause and effect. Instead he passes his time by “sometimes” drawing “obscene pictures on the walls” (Steinbeck 1986, p. 6). Steinbeck (1986) informs that: Time hung heavy on Danny’s hands there in his cell in the city jail. Now and then a drunk was put in for the night, but for the most part crime in Monterey was stagnant, and Danny was lonely. The bedbugs bothered him a little at first, but as they got used to the taste of him and he grew accustomed to their bites, they got along peacefully (p. 6). This is characteristic of Tortilla Flat in its manifestation of Steinbeck’s non-teleological thinking and influences. Danny is not only Mexican-American, he is a pasiano, whom Steinbeck (1986) describes as an individual with Spanish, Indian, Mexican and Caucasian. Through Danny’s experience in jail we learn that accepting events as they happen is conducive to the pasiano’s nature. Danny’s acceptance of the bedbugs is also reflective of Steinbeck’s non-teleological thinking in terms of becoming one with nature. Benson (1990) goes further to suggest that the oneness with nature extends to attach to the pasiano’s close contacts, because: For the “is” thinker accepts not only life and nature but also the others with whom he comes into contact (p. 32). The penchant for accepting things as they are is rooted in teleological conceptualization that simplicity and consistency breeds freedom and thus happiness. It also dictates that man’s struggles are implicit in man “as an entity and man as a member of a group”