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The Yellow Wallpaper Essay
A Rose For Emily

Sunrise with Palm Trees

Iris Levenson An Analysis of Tortilla Curtain

English 1B

May 7, 2005


The author, T.C.Boyle was American born on December 2, 1948, in Peekskill, N.Y. He was born with the

name , Thomas John Boyle, but at 17 he decided to change his middle name to Coraghessan after one of

his Irish ancestors. In 1968 he received a B.A. in English and History from State University of New York at

Potsdam. In 1974 he received a M.F.A. in fiction at University of Iowa, in Iowa and a P.H.D. in British

Literature in 1977. Since 1977, Boyle has taught creative writing at the University of Southern California.

He lives with his wife and three children in a house near Santa Barbara, that was designed in 1909 by the

architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He's always had an interest in the Mexican culture and when others took

French in school he was interested in Spanish as a second language. Living in southern California very close

to the borders of Mexico and the U.S., articles are written daily in the local newspapers about illegal

immigration. He would read about it and also attend elite parties where immigration was a popular issue to

discuss. He sensed a need to address his feelings in a story that is portrayed in a very profoundly real way

The book came out after proposition 187 passed. The proposition denies certain social benefits to illegal

immigrants such as medical attention and education. John Steinback’s “Grapes of Wrath”, depicting

poverty in America during the depression and a search for the American Dream, was an influence for Boyle

as similar social issues in the 1930’s prevailed. At the time that “Tortilla Curtain’ was published

prop.187 made the book extremely controversial. The book is very provocative because it discusses two

very distinct social classes, “The haves and the have nots, in which Boyle has conveyed through his

personal feelings why should some have everything and others be denied. Other writers of influence for

Boyle are Flannery O’Connor and Evelyn Waugh, because they are angry about the way certain things are

in society they hold certain behaviors to ridicule in their writing using the form of satire, as with the use

of gallows humor. As Boyle uses throughout “Tortilla Curtain“.



Boyle presents the story, by beginning with the two classes of people colliding together in a violent way.

Delaney the independently wealthy, environmentalist is driving to a recycle plant, when his Acura has an

unfortunate encounter with a man. His first concern was the assault on his car. He gets out to check for

damages and then searches for his victim. He finally discovers this bloodied little mustached, Mexican

man, who is obviously shakened and injured. Delaney asks the man if he needs help and the man replies,

“monee”. Delaney gives him a twenty dollar bill and leaves him on the side of the road. He goes off to the

recycler and to get his car fixed. The division of the classes is very distinct at this point. Had the victim

been a citizen, and white, the incident would have called for medical attention. Substantial money would

have exchanged hands to cover expenses and compensate for inconveniences caused. The victim is an

illegal alien, Candido Rincon. He lives inside the canyon, with his 17 year old, pregnant wife, America.

They live in a makeshift camp, the way a penniless, homeless person would live. As in contrast to Delaney

and Kyra Mossbacher’s politically correct, suburban wealthy, plan- for- the future existence. They live in

their pristine home and well organized estate community. These two couples are neighbors. Boyle has

arranged the book, where the chapters will switch from the lives of the elite to the next chapter where the

reader is taken into the lives of the desperate. Both couples are confronted with life’s challenges, each

being one another’s. We have the desperate immigrant struggling minute by minute to survive, literally on

the verge of starvation and the Mossbachers who feel invaded by illegal immigrants, such as the Rincons.

Each couple has left their former homes to experience a better life. For the Mossbachers it was less

crowding and safer to move to the canyons on the outskirts of Los Angeles. For the Rincons it was the

search for a better life, to have the opportunities, to succeed and reach their dream. These are two distinctly

different wants and needs. For each neither has been easily obtainable. Candido, has promised his child

bride a better life in the “North” but throughout the book with every set back and desperate act of survival

she will reminisce about life in her small village in Mexico. She misses her mother. There is a thread of

thought throughout the book of her yearning for her life and her youth back home. Candido is determined

to succeed by any means. He has made a promise to America’, that they will have a better life and he is

honorable in trying to up hold his promise. He has dreams of his mother, who died when he was very

young. The dreams are not pleasant. Unlike the Mossbachers, who never reminisce, there is no time to look

back, they forge ahead, because that marks success for them. There is no looking back. The story takes

place over a period of months , spring, summer, fall entering into winter. The chapters weave in and out of

each families lives, obstacles and issues with society running parallel with each other. At one point

America went looking for work and finding work she comes to realize that she was there for the money

nothing more the man had nothing to say and did not care to listen. At the same time Delaney attended the

community meeting, to discuss the coyote attack on the dogs, but no one cared to listen, they had their own

agenda which was to build a gate at the entrance to the utopia everyone came to live in. This was to keep

the bad element out. The person who takes bribes to help illegals cross the border was referred to as a.

coyote .The environment was an issue for Delaney. The fire in the canyon was foreshadowed in the

beginning of the story when Delaney realized there were people living in camps down below. The plot is a

simple one. It pertains to a failed American Dream, and a failed America. Everyone is trying to survive in

a crowded, judgmental world. where nature has also become the enemy. In the beginning we have two very

different people. Neither can accept the other for what either stands for. At the end they come together as

the same.



Most of the novel was written in third person. Accept, the sampling of Delaney’s article called “ Pilgrim at

Topanga Creek”. The article captures Delaney’s closeness to nature. He writes as if being in full contact

with nature is apart of his being. It’s the essence of his full contentment. His description in the article of

, two species of roses Chemise and Redshanks, he calls tough customers. They deposit toxins in the ground

to inhibit germination of other plants and carry resins in their wood stems to feed the brushfires that allows

them to regenerate. The author uses nature throughout the book as a metaphor for society. Candido’s and

America’s experience, where nature is their home, where they are forced to live like animals of the

Wilderness and fight the natural elements as well as society. They have no choice. Most of the story is

written in present tense which allows for the reader to feel all events as they unfold. The parts that are not

written in present tense are recollections of life in the past for Candido and America. I don’t think the

author had a point of view, that was outwardly expressed in the story, but he expressed with satire and

morbid humor the events that unfolded. One chapter, Candido and America were robbed of all their

precious, earned money. The money that they painstakingly, worked hard labor for. The fact that it was

earned honestly and then it was taken away by a desperate illegal, one from their own country actually

allowed for separation of classes in that respect. Candido was beat up over the healing injuries and scars of

his last accident. America and Candido had to resort to hunting for food out of dumpsters. The next

chapter takes us back to Delaney and his wife Kyra, planning Thanksgiving dinner with an array of

delicacies on the menu. They are offered a free turkey at the store which Delaney nearly passes up because

they have one. I sense the author is saying the elite has the opportunity and most of all the capabilities

to help unfortunate people, but instead they call destitution a blemish on their beautiful landscaped lives.

“It’s a problem. These illegals need to go back to where they came and take the legals with them. They are

causing crime and further pollution and over population and they are stressing our welfare system.” Then

on the stand point of the Rincons, they are an honest couple, that thinks the United States is the land of

opportunity and it’s streets are paved with gold. The author shows the reader that the Rincons have hopes

of renting an apartment out of the money they have saved from harsh labor and ridiculously low pay. They

continue to hope with every set back.



The characters of the story are all to real and exemplifies two distinct races that make up the fabric of this

country. There are three main characters to the plot, America’, Candido and Delaney. Kyra Mossbacher Al

though his wife is part of the story I didn’t feel she was at all significant accept that she represented the,

(To busy to be bothered) segment. Politics was not part of her agenda. Her agenda was being the best at her

game, which is a big part of the American dream. She seemed distant to her son and accommodated

Delaney at her convenience. America’, was young, innocent, pretty much grew up in a close knit traditional

Mexican family and found herself sacrificing her youth and her comfortable fitting world, to the struggle

for survival in a strange and not so inviting America. Her meeting with Mary the American woman, also

begging for work was very eye opening for America, I‘m looking for work too. Was this woman trying to

tell her that she a gringa in her own country was looking for the same work as America? It couldn‘t be

Have I sunk to this a good student a good girl who always respected her parents and always did what she

was told sitting here penniless in the dirt with a drunk?. America had thought of her fading American

dream Although she was young she was resourceful. She did what she felt was necessary for herself, her

husband and her baby. She still tried to maintain self-respect. She was always prey to the elements. She

was attacked while crossing the border. She was a was always feeling a sense of vulnerability and by all

rights she should. She is pregnant, getting into cars with strangers. She works with materials that are

potentially harmful to herself and her baby. She is raped. Yet she is driven to survive. She stands up to her

husband when he objects to her working, and when he trys to deny her going into town with him. Her first

realization that she may have taken on a dream that is not realistic is when she meets up with Mary, who is

American and begging for work along side her. If this is how it is in America, what chance does she have to

succeed? The last drawl was her experience in the city when she encounters people like her, but are not

very nice. They are the vultures that survive on the Innocent and honest. They are also the ones who gives

her people a bad name and makes it even harder to be accepted. Candido, her husband promises America’

a room to spend the night with bed and shower. She is looking forward to washing with hot water and

soap and to sleep in a bed. Candido is trusting and follows a man who promises to give him what he is

looking for. Candido has all their money sewn in his clothes. America’ waits long into the night. He comes

back beaten, robbed, and clothes torn to shreds. They wind up looking for food in a dumpster. America’

finally feels defeated and says she would rather die than to live this way. Candido in his earlier days was a

provider for his family. He would go to the north and bring back money. He was a hero of the village. He

fell in love and married Ressurrecion , America’s sister, but one day upon coming home from a venture

north he finds she’s moved in with someone and Candido had come home bearing gifts. Candido met with

the man to have it out in front of half the village and candido lost the battle, the village turns their back on

him, his loses his honor. He losses himself for years, until one day he met up with America’ and he tells her

he is going to take her north….He is a man of pride. He is a survivor. He is honest. He had an opportunity

to break into any of the houses during the fire when all was deserted, but instead he took insignificant

replaceable items. He tries very hard to make it as comfortable for his wife as he can. He just works so hard

at earning the money it will take to realize their dream but it always slips out of reach. He never gives up

. There is Delaney Mossbacher in contrast. He is an environmentalist, and a liberal accepting free thinker..

Until he becomes a victim of the elements and grows angry. It all begins when he encounters his accident

with Candido in the beginning. Throughout the book, he sees Candido’s face or image. His guilt is getting

the best of him and he uses Mexicans for a scapegoat. He encounters throughout the story invasions from

outside sources. First the walk home as he takes the night air in peacefully he is followed by a car with loud

music, breaking his mood. Delaney prepares for a hike. Looking forward to new discoveries in nature and

enjoy the wide openness and freedom, he is confronted by two Mexicans in the canyon. They act like they

belong there doing nothing wrong. They belong there same as Delaney. Delaney is feeling slightly

threatened as he cuts his hike short and heads back to discover his car has been stolen. The car dealer

explains to Delaney this is common. Mexicans ban together to make money. Delaney’s wife Kyra has

separate views on the wall that is now being discussed. First the gate now a wall. He calls this anti-

democratic. Delaney is getting a sense of being victimized. His environment is being invaded. His wide

open spaces have become tighter. He is becoming reactionary and blames it on Candido, where all of this

started. He becomes a hunter, trying to trap and hunt. Jack Jr. represented an extension of his dad who was a

lawyer, protecting people like Dominic Flood. Jack Jr. carried out his racism openly by destroying Candido

and America’s campsite. He and a friend maliciously threw their things in a creek. The wealth that he

comes from makes the crime even more hateful. A conversation Delaney overheard Jack Jr. having with a

friend. “Cal State huh?” Jack Jr. said. Best I could do with my grades.” A snigger a double snigger. “Think

you can handle Northridge? I mean I hear it‘s like Little Mexico or something.”. Yup. That’s right “.

Fuckin Little Mexico all the way. But you know what the bright side is ?” “What?” Mexican chicks.” “Get

out of here.” Another pause, long, reflective. “A suppressed belch. “No shit, man--they give killer head.”

“Only one thing you have to worry about----””The 10 pounds a year rule”. At sixteen they’re killers, but

from then on every year they gain 10 pounds till they wind up looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy, with a

suntan------and who wants to stick your dick in something like that even their mouth?” Delaney stood, this

was Jack’s kid, a kid who should know better, a kid with all the advantages raised right here in, Arroyo

Blanco, or maybe that was the problem. His thoughts went to Jordan: Was that the way he was going to

turn out? Of course it was. There was nothing Kyra or Delaney could do about it. It was all over the wall

business . It might keep them out but look what it keeps in. Society isn’t what is was, until we get control

of the borders”, says Jack Jardine, the dad. He is breeding racism in his house and passing on to the next

generation. Jack Jardine was insinuating that society would be the way it should be without the illegal

invasion as if people like himself are all we need to make society exemplary. “What about the matter of the

labor exchange? Dominick Flood says “ that little matter has been taken care of, believe me it was no big

deal, just a few phone calls to the right people”, Big wig, with ankle bracelet throwing his power around.

Does he realize taking away these people’s only hopes will make matters worse? Putting people out of work was not a consideration on his end.



The story was written in 1995. It could have taken place at any time in the 80’s, 90’ or current. It seems

timeless because conditions and issues remain the same or possibly have worsen. With the issues of

college tuition for illegal and their children, who are born in this country, but really have no residence.

This matter has gone to court in Kansas. There’s the matter of the rights for Aliens to be issued a drivers

license which opens other privileges up. Society has definite pros and cons on the subject. So the issue still

remains very controversial. The setting is on the outskirts of L.A. not far from Beverley Hills, called

Topanga Canyon. The community sits up top the canyon. The homes are surrounded by brush and wildlife,

and as the story proceeds it becomes gated and walled in. This takes away from the openness that originally

brought people to the area from the crowded communities below. The wall symbolizes keeping people out

as keeping people in, like “The Tortilla Curtain“. On one side of the wall are the rich elite. The other side

are the struggling immigrants. I think that Candido and America’ living in a canyon below symbolizes how

low they had come in life. As the residents drove down the hill from their homes they entered a world of

poverty and despair. The wildlife represented both sides. The setting sets the story by separating but at the

same time almost blending both worlds. It forces the elite to observe the destitute daily as they leave their

homes and return. It becomes part of the scenery. As the poor see how well the rich are. Yet their dreams of

life are so simple in comparison. The immigrant community is close enough to Delaney and Kyra’s world

that Kyra had commented on having to take a different route to show her clients homes because of the

scenery, particularly at the 7-11, which sparked her to make a phone call to clean up the crowds of migrants

looking for work.


The book was mainly written in a very simple informal tone. The author choose this style to keep it as

natural and true to form as possible. There was some Spanish woven in through the story in appropriate

spots. These were words used to express endearment, such as when Candido said, “ Eat mi vida,” you are

going to need it to keep up your strength,”. Most of the time these Spanish words were in reference to types

of people. The gringas, vagos, mendigos, chicanos,, pelirrojo, the reader gets a sense of negative context

to these references without having to even know their meaning. The reader senses that Candido and America’

speak English when they converse with no dialect, except the scene, where America’ is waiting for work

and she holds a quick conversation where it starts off in Spanish, with introductions from the man offering

coffee and winding up a typical pick up in English, “Come on” the man coaxed in his strange high choked

tones, “come on loosen up baby I don’t bite.----I’m a friendly guy, don’t you like friendly guys? ”You likecoffee don’t you?” “All right”, she said. I like coffee and I thank you and I thank you again, but I want you

to know I am a married woman and it’s not right to talk to me like that-------”The setting is the “work

Exchange“. Where America is frightened and feeling very vulnerable. This is all a new experience for her

and she has a sense of need , which goes with survival as everyone there also senses. She is also

confronted by Mary, a drunken, American looking for work. It was hot already ---ninety and yet this

woman was dressed in a heavy brocade you might find on a sofa in a house of easy virtue, and she wore a

shawl of the same material around her shoulders. When she got close America could see the thin wire loop

that punctured her right nostril. “How are you doing”? the woman said, “I’m Mary. Llama Mary”. “Me

llamo America,” America returned. Habla usted espanol?” Mary grinned her teeth were enormous like

cow’s teeth, more yellow than white. “Poco”, she said “little. “No work today, huh? You know work,

Trabaja.” Work, was this woman offering her work? America‘s heart began to race, but than she stopped

herself. She didn‘t look like a housewife, not the kind America knew from the American tv and films. She

looked dirty and had a sad smell of poverty about her. I‘m looking too, she said and punched a thumb into

her own chest for emphasis. “Me, I work“-------trabaja. Clean house, paint. Odd jobs----comprendo?

Sometimes get , sometimes no, you sabe? America didn’t sabe. Nor did she understand. Was the woman

trying to tell her that she a gringa in her own country was looking for the same work as America? It

couldn’t be. It was crazy. Another scene in the story clearly shows Candido’s lack of understanding the

English language. It was the scene in the grocery store, He didn’t pay any attention to the gringos ahead in

line, the loud ones two men already celebrating the holiday. Turkey? One of them shouted in his own

language his voice rich with amusement, with mockery and now Candido looked up wondering what it was

all about. “What the hell do we want with a turkey?” The man who’d been speaking was in his twenties,

cocky, long haired, rings leaping out of his knuckles. The other one his companion had six hoops coming

out of his earlobes, “Take it man the other said, come on Jules it’s a goof. Take it man it’s a turkey, a

fucking turkey”. They were holding up the line. “You gonna cook it?” The first man said. You think it will

fit in a microwave”? “That’s what I’m saying, What the fuck you want with a fucking turkey?” “What

about this dude here he looks like he could use a turkey”. “Hey man” Candido felt a finger poke at his

shoulder and he looked up at the sharp dressers, “You want a turkey?” Something was happening they were

pointing at the turkey and asking him----? “what, what did they want from him? Candido looked around in

a growing panic, everyone in the room was watching him, “No espick Ingliss,” he said. That was the

second time in the story it was revealed that Candido could not speak English. The first time was in the

beginning when he only said, monee. Although he seems to understand. All other wording is simple and

easy to follow. All of these passages explains in the story the division of language and the confusion but

this gap in communication, was never an obstacle for Candido and America. The last chapters began to

touch on both sides, coming together as in the situation with the fire, where the angry elite, spoke as sharply

and cursed as harshly as the illegals. It was a face off. The next thing he knew he was on the guy flailing

his fists as the crowd surged forward and the Mexican kicked out at him and the cop wedged his way

between them. “Mother fucker” !the Mexican screamed over his shoulder as the cop wrestled him away

. “I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you mother fucker”. “Fuck you” Delaney roared as Jack Cherrystone held him back.

That scene call for the Americans to use the word, spic and wetback. They would blame the fire on anyone

who was Mexican. This crowd had been inconvenienced and on the verge of becoming homeless. They

were angry and needed someone to blame. It sets the tone for heightened resentment. Delaney has turned a

Mr. Hyde. I choose these excerpts because the do distinctly mark the tone of the scene. The language

barrier, that occurs, yet this is overcome by the tone. With America and her meeting with Mary. It became

clear that Mary and America were competing with equal need for a job. The desperation was felt. It was cut

throat and Mary made her point. The part in the grocery store where Candido was confused and then in

shock by an act of kindness. He felt overwhelmed by the people looking at him and not understanding, he

felt right away something was wrong, but it was a gesture of kindness and it lent to the story , that was

slowly merging the classes. The angry mob scene at the fire, continued to merge the classes with the break

down in language, interesting that the word “fuck” is universal. However the reader begins to feel that the

elite loses some eloquence when language spews out in anger. The classes almost become equal at that

moment. Another part of the story that is significant to diction and differences is the confrontation that

Kyra has with the two men on the property she is watching. “What do you think you are doing here?” she

cried her voice shrill with authority. “This is private property”. His eyes flashed at her and she saw the hate

and contempt in them, the potential for cruelty, the knowledge ad certainty of it. He turned his head

casually to spit in the grass. “I’m sorry” she said, and her voice quavered, she could hear herself gone lame

and flat, “but you can’t be here you’re, you’re trespassing.” “You own this place, lady?” the tall one said

fixing her with his steady unblinking glaze. “Yes” she lied, making certain eye contact, trying to sell the

idea. “My husband and I do, and my brother.” She gestured toward the house. ”They’re in there now

making drinks for dinner.” The two trespassers exchanged words in Spanish and then the tall one said,

”We are sorry to much” , “me and my friend ? We don’t know these place, you know? We hike that’s all

just hike.” “Sorry, he repeated, coming back to her eyes, “A mistake, that’s all, no problem, huh?” She

could hardly breath, “No problem” She heard herself say. “Okay,” okay, no problem. ”The tall one

suddenly stopped short as if he’d forgotten something, turned back as if to level his smile on her. “You

have a nice day, huh?” he said,-”you and your husband. And your brother too.” The tone in his voice is

threatening . He is polite but he is also ridiculing her. Also a foreshadow of what is yet to come. The reader

also senses, the diffences in clases here. Kyra, as a real estate agent, might be in the situation where she see

a house , and for her own curiosity or professional information she might stop, get out and look around the

property. If she would be approached by the owners, there would probably be no threat, situation handled

differently. Throughout the book the tone has been set through the diction whenever there has been any

confrontations between the opposition. Thus the racism is clearly defined.




















Enter subhead content here

Iris Levenson


Instructor – Steve Grundmeier                   


Course – English 1B


Date – February 13. 2005


                                                                     A Critical Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper”


The story shows clear evidence that in the period of the 18th and early 19th century there was a


well defined dividing line between the sexes. The term Women’s Sufferage was very


 appropriate for the time.  Women were victims. One article that expresses this well, states that


women were vulnerable to inadequate diagnosis. Most women’s ailments were caused by the


sexual organs.  This states one example of the differentiating between the sexes. Hysteria, known


as, The Daughters Disease was believed to be caused by aberrations in the reproductive system.


The cure was rest and sustaining from all intellectual stimulation. In the story the narrator has


been diagnosis with hysteria and temporary nervous depression.  This diagnosis was also based


on the author’s own experience which is depicted in the story. It is interesting to find that within


that time frame Winifred Howell and Edith Wharton also women writers were diagnosed and


treated in the same manner. The narrator of the story describes, the house that the protagonist of


 the story, selects for her prescribed rest as haunted and alienated. From the tone of the writing


 This would probably be something she would not choose, for her convalescence had her opinion


 been valued. The room that is selected for her was historically a nursery. This would be


 symbolic in keeping her childlike.  There are bars on the windows and hideous yellow wallpaper


 , with patterns of circles. The patterns on the wallpaper would be symbolic to her life as there


are no openings for escape. The color of the wallpaper is also symbolic as yellow being cowardly,


 ugly, and inferior.  The bed is bolted, reflecting the image of lack of choice.  As the narrator


 makes reference to “Myself” as it is stated, she doesn’t consider herself part of ordinary people.


The narrator makes reference to her writing as, dead paper, when she is speaking about the


 antagonist as the reason she is not getting well faster. The dead paper would be for her eyes only


 and the treatment is not realistic as a cure for her condition. Stating historically women’s


 misdiagnosis.   Perhaps what is missing is a cause for the ailment, which would be the


 underlying factor that created it in the first place. The narrator waits till her husband goes into


town, which allows her the freedom to write.  The protagonist warns her that with her


Weakness, she mustn’t give way to her imaginative power and imaginative story making. As the


story progresses it quietly submerges in a woman’s descent into madness. A descent not stopped


but escalated by the cure prescribed that was supposed to help her. She is weakening, and


beginning to see images in the pattern of the wallpaper. At first rationalizing her vision has been


created by the way the light hits the wall and assumes they are shadows, but then begins to describe


What she sees, as a strange, provoking formless figure that seems to skulk. The narrator does


state very clearly that she is aware of her being too tired to turn her head. She cries all the time at


nothing. She begins to obsess over the wallpaper and uses words like confusion and grotesque,


but what she is doing is describing her own feelings. The antagonist uses words, as he needs to


draw her closer to his dependency of her. She is his darling, his comfort and all he has.


The narrator surrenders. As the story ends the narrator referrers to her creeping state, where she


identifies herself with the, shadow woman in the wallpaper who is trapped. Crawling is


emblematic of the crudest form of servility. She could not get any lower.



 Sites for Information


THE INTERNET – Web site – Charlotte Perkins Gilman Society,  DOMESTIC GODDESS Copy write, Kim Wells  1998, a.k.a Scribbliing mobs of Women


 MSN ENCARTA- The Literature Guild -  S.Weir Mitchell, 1887,. The                                 treatment for Neurasthenia and Hysteria


Encyclopedia online MSN ENCARTA 2005 – WOMEN AND ECONOMICS, The Women Hall of Fame for Charlotte Perkins Gilman


University of Toledo libraries, Barbara Floyd, Archivist,  19th Century America Womens Health Care


American Literature research and analysis WEB SITE, under the direction of Dr. Jim Wahlport, Florida Gulf Coast University










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