As the owner of the house, Danny is the leader of the paisanos of Tortilla Flat. When there is a tough decision to be made or when a chore needs to be assigned to someone in the group, Danny typically makes the decision. He is King Arthur to the Knights of the Round Table that Steinbeck models the paisanos after. This status came to Danny quite randomly. When Danny returned from World War I, he discovered that his grandfather had left him two houses. Though everyone in the group shares everything they have, the fact that Danny shares his houses elevates him to this position.
Unfortunately, property ownership and leadership mean responsibility, and that is the one thing a paisano cannot stomach. The weight of ownership and the tedium of the paisanos' meaningless days wear heavily on Danny. He longs for the days of freedom that he had enjoyed before the war. Even though Danny's father was comparatively rich, Danny always refused the luxuries that were offered to him. He preferred sleeping the forest to his own house and the taste of store bought food never compared to the ecstasy of eating stolen grub. Ownership of the house left Danny without the ability to enjoy these pleasures. It was not reasonable to sleep in the forest when he had a bed and there was no need to steal food when the pirate brought plenty of it every day. But, what is reasonable is not necessarily what makes Danny happy. After brooding for a month, Danny disappears from the house and goes on a crime spree that puts the entire town on the defensive. When he returns, Danny is happy and exhausted, but he has not recaptured his youth. That is gone forever. There is only old age and death to look forward to. Danny sees this and chooses to fight it. At the party, Danny dies in a final burst of brilliance that makes him legendary. His friends honor this intention by burning Danny's house down and not letting it pass on and become forgotten.