I’m not done talking about Tortilla Flat yet.
Everything important comes in gradations of value. There are different denominations for things. Wine is no exception, such is one of the morals of Tortilla Flat. There’s a cup of wine. A glass of wine. A fruit jar of wine. A jug of wine. A gallon of wine. Two gallons of wine. And when a man passes into legend, there’s three gallons of wine, which our hero Danny purportedly drank before he shuffled off his mortal coil and became something more than a man.
His annunciation was the occasion of my closing the book for the night.
I fell asleep and dreamed a dream. A child said What is wine? fetching it to me with tiny hands. How could I answer the child. I don’t know what it is any more than he.
Wait. No, I do.
I guess it must be the liquid patriotism of my soul, or a twiddler of thumbs and whiler away of time, or a gift of friendship, or a triumphant yawp, or fermenting spurts of sensuality, or compensation, or barterable property, or a destroyer of sorrows, or a sweet evening pleasure, or sippable warmth, or a wagger of tongues, or an incentive to philanthropy, or the sunshine and rain of good health.
I awakened, and the child was gone. I saw the world clearly. Of all of the things wine is in Tortilla Flat, it is mostly rain and sunshine and soil. This symbol allows Steinbeck to fuse a quirky Medieval romance with biological naturalism. If we are lucky, old age settles down upon us like the sun on the horizon, at the end of a long, warm pleasant day. We are born; we grow, we decay, and then we die, just like Danny and his friends and his house, and the single living, thriving organism they all become under the glorious influence of wine.