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The Squatter and The Don Chapter XX-Conclusion

In reading the last half of The Squatter and The Don, I noticed repeated mention of corruption, greed, abuse of power, and violent acts committed onto one another. This concluding half, filled with suspense and action, concludes gloomily as it expresses the deep-seated fault of the American government; legislature and elite economic interest are undoubtedly intertwined.

The suspense of the latter half of the book begins with the violent argument of Mr. Darrell and Don Mariano. As Gasbang, Mathews, and Hughes tell Mr. Darrell about the “shady” business dealings between Clarence and the Don, Mr. Darrell wholeheartedly believes that Don Mariano required Clarence to pay for Mercedes’s love. Rash decisions are made and the confrontation of Mr. Darrell and the Don tells of a societal imbalance of power at this moment in history. Mr. Darrell cracks the whip, aiming to injure the Don. Though this moment is out of rage and a simple communication error, I believe there is a deeper message. The Don, wealthy and a legal land-owner, should be more “powerful” than the squatter, Darrell. However, in this instance, the whip represents societal power being exercised by a white man over a Hispanic man. This strongly related to the squatter laws, which aimed to disproportionately discriminate against Mexican-American families. It’s comfortable to think that in the eyes of the law, all people are equal. However, law and society are not colourblind and in 19th century San Diego, on the Alamar Rancho, this inequality is enacted upon as a white man asserts his dominance, like his ancestors before him.

As this book is full of heinous acts coming to fruition, it continues as the squatters Gasbang and Hogsden with the help of corrupt lawyer, Roper, pursue the house of the recently deceased Mr. Mechlin. This utter disregard for a grieving family and desire to reprimand the home of a dead man is disheartening and shows the reader the wickedness of humans. Roper is the epitome of corruption, greed, and egocentricity as he boasts that he “has the Court in [his] pocket”. Ruiz de Burton displays Roper as an utterly horrible human being but warns that humanity could soon be (if not already) infested with these abhorrent minds. If a society is filled with these sorts of people, there is no telling what that could do to say… The legal system of a nation.

Finally, The Squatter and the Don demonstrates how government carries the fate of its citizens in its hands and how a corrupt government can ruin the well-being of the vast majority. As the Don and friends meet with Governor Stanford to discuss the Texas Pacific Railroad, they are confronted with the same corruption and greed we have seen before. However, this selfishness has damning consequences because the simple actions of governors, congressmen, and lawmakers can build up or tear down a nation. Ruiz de Burton, through Governor Stanford, shows that greed can hurt people on a very personal scale, but giving these self-serving individuals the power of an office can harm the very fabric that holds society together. The greased pockets and egoistic mind of Governor Stanford saw “grass grow over” the plans of the Texas Pacific, depriving countless souls of a promised future. The evils that plague our world are unsettling, disturbing, and often frightening. However, as a nation, united by our values, beliefs, and morality, and strengthened by literary works like The Squatter and the Don, we must prohibit these selfish souls from attaining a position to inflict generational trauma through laws and political policy.

-Curtis HR

3 thoughts on “The Squatter and The Don Chapter XX-Conclusion

  1. The trends you mention in your comment I think, are at the core of the message Ruiz de Burton is trying to transmit. Especially your mention of human nature. Human beings have the capacity for terrible deeds. In this case we have the notion of the elites exploiting the masses, the whites overpowering “Hispanics”, Washington over Californians, the Law subjugating the citizen. I think the author is trying to point out that justice and corruption are two sides of the same coin, the Law. What makes it corrupt is human nature.

    The first half of the book seems to show this Utopia of a good law abiding neighbours from different backgrounds (both rich) and how they get along and grow in business together, this is all achieved through respecting the Law.

    The second half of the book we see how most of their lives go out of control due to the greed and corruption of Roper, the Judge, the squatters. What is really interesting is that it seems as if the Universe is trying to bring about an equilibrium between these two notions. This happens with the snow storm and the fevers. It seems as if the characters could only attain a certain amount of happiness, and in crossing the threshold of good fortune and success, it seems like they weren’t allowed by these inexplicable diseases and events. Could that be the lesson the author is trying to communicate? There is only so much you can attain? Can “Hispanics” truly be happy under this new treaty?


  2. Hi Curtis,

    Loved this post! I think you really hammered home what (to me) is one of the most important ideas, if not THE most important idea in the novel: “… government carries the fate of its citizens in its hands and how a corrupt government can ruin the well-being of the vast majority.” From the title and the first half of the novel, I think readers view the main divide as existing between the Squatter and the Don. However, in the second half of the novel it becomes more obvious that the real divide is between the government and its citizens; as you say, “the government carries the fait of its citizens in its hands”, and in this novel we see that so clearly. The last sentence of your post was very impactful!



  3. Another way of putting all this (and I was trying to suggest as much in class) is that Ruiz de Burton is providing a counter-narrative to the heroic story of Western expansion that is so much part of the mythology of US self-representation. In place of brave pioneers seeking their fortunes out West, for instance, she gives us a series of squatters making their homes on other people’s land. And in place of the triumph of hard work and industry linking the two coasts via the railroads, she gives us a story of corruption and self-interest. In this sense, the book is a powerful and important corrective, especially given when it was written.


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