Leistungskurs Englisch Musteraufgabe Februar 2005 (Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Sport)
The Tortilla Curtain
(novel 1995; excerpt)
By T. Coraghessan Boyle
Delaney and Kyra are a liberal white American coupte living in California near the Mexican border with
their six-year-old son Jordan. One day Delaney runs down a poor Mexican with his car and gives him money
to compensate for the man's serious injuries, However, he soon feels he did not behave correctly.
Some time later Delaney meets his friend Jack in the supermarket. They start talking.
"Did you know that the U.S. accepted more immigrants last year than all the other
countries of the world combined - and that half of them settled in California? And that's legal immigrants,
people with skills, money, education. The ones coming in through the Tortilla Curtain down there, those
are the ones that are killing us. They're peasants, my friend. No education, no resources, no skills -
all they've got to offer is a strong back, and the irony is we need fewer and fewer strong backs every
day because we've got robotics and computers and farm machinery that can do the labor of a hundred men
at a fraction of the cost." He dropped his hand in dismissal. "Its old news."
Delaney set the milk down on the floor. He was in a hurry, dinner on the stove, Jordan in the car,
Kyra about to walk in the door, but in the heat of the moment he forgot all about it. "I can't believe
you," he said, and he couldn't seem to control his free arm, waving it in an expanding loop. "Do you
realize what you're saying? Immigrants are the lifeblood of this country - we're a nation of immigrants -
and neither of us would be standing here today if it wasn't."
"Clichès. There's a point of saturation. Besides which, the Jardines fought in the
Revolutionary War - you could hardly call us immigrants."
"Everybodys an immigrant from somewhere. My grandfather came over from Bremen and my grandmother was
Irish - does that make me any less a citizen than the Jardines?"
A woman with frosted hair and a face drawn tight as a drumskin ducked between them for a jar of
olives. Jack worked a little grit into his voice: "Thats not the point. Times have changed, my friend.
Radically. Do you have any idea what these people are costing us, and not just in terms of crime, but
in real tax dollars for social services? No? Well, you ought to. You must have seen that thing in the
Times a couple weeks ago, about the San Diego study?"
Delaney shook his head. He felt his stomach sink.
"Look, Delaney," Jack went on, cool, reasonable, his voice in full song now, It's a simple equation,
so much in, so much out. The illegals in San Diego County contributed seventy million in tax revenues
and at the same time they used up two hundred and forty
million in services - welfare, emergency care, schooling and the like. You want to pay for that? And
for the crime that comes with it? You want another crazy Mexican throwing himself under your wheels
hoping for an insurance payoff? Or worse, you want one of them behind the wheel bearing down on you,
no insurance, no brakes, no nothing?"
Delaney was trying to organize his thoughts. He wanted to tell Jack that he was wrong, that everyone
deserved a chance in life and that the Mexicans would assimilate just like the Poles, Italians, Germans,
Irish and Chinese and that besides which we'd stolen California from them in the first place, but he
didn't get the chance. [.....]
And then they were moving in the direction of the cash registers - all three of them, as a group -
and Jack, the conciliatory Jack, Jack the politician, Jack the soother of gripes, grievances and
hurts real or imaginary, put an arm over Delaneys shoulder and warbled his sweetest notes: "Listen,
Delaney, I know how you feel, and I agree with you. It's not easy for me either - it's nothing less
than rethinking your whole life, who you are and what you believe in. And trust me: when we get control
of the border again - if we get control of it - I'll be the first to advocate taking that gate down.
But don't kid yourself:
it's not going to happen anytime soon."
(719 words including introduction)
From: THE TORTILLA CURTAIN by Tom Coraghessan Boyle
Work on three tasks. Task 1 and 2 are compulsory. Choose one task from 3.
1. Sum up both speakers' arguments concerning immigration.
2. Show how Jack and Delaney are characterised by analyzing the literary means. Discuss the effect of
this way of writing on the reader.
3. A. Discuss Jack Jardines' point of view on Hispanics. Use your knowledge about immigrants in the
USA or another country and give your personal opinion.
B. Compare the problems between Hispanics and established US citizens as presented in the text to
those between immigrants and residents in a country that you have discussed in class. Discuss whether
steps towards reconciliation that are taken in this country could serve as a model for the problem
described in the text.
C. Discuss to what extent the different attitudes towards immigration in the text are a result of
globalisation. You may either refer to the USA and Mexico or to similar situations in other
D. A TV channel wants to host a talk show on the subject of immigrants to the USA from Mexico, in which
both the position of Jack and Delaney are considered. Before the actual discussion begins, the viewers
are introduced into the theme by a short introductory film. Write the script for this introduction,
describe the shots you want to use and write the text of the voice-over.
Write at least 700 words in 300 minutes.