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John Steinbeck was a social activist. He
became the voice of the poor and the
oppressed, people who had no one to
speak for them.
Parable – a brief story, usually with human
characters, that is told to teach a lesson.
Steinbeck wrote: “If this story is a parable,
perhaps everyone takes his own meaning
from it and reads his own life into it.” In
other words, “The Pearl” will mean
something different to each of you.
Steinbeck and the Parable
Steinbeck hinted that “The Pearl” is both
symbolic and literal. In other words, the
story can be about the struggles of the
poor or how sudden wealth can change
everything for any family. It is can also be
seen as simply the story about one family.
The symbolic meaning of the story may
differ from reader to reader.
The story is more than just a plot (this
happened and this and then this).
The reader needs to understand that there
is meaning below the surface of the story.
In the 16th
century the Spanish landed in
Mexico and overthrew the Aztecs.
The Spaniards enslaved the native people
of the area.
Today, these people are not slaves but
they make up the underclass of Mexican
The descendants of the Spanish
conquerors are still richer and more
powerful than the rest of the population.
They make up the ruling class of Mexico.
Social Classes of Mexican Culture
The doctor, the priest, and the pearl
buyers are all of Spanish descent
Kino and his family practice the
Catholic religion, but still hold onto
their belief in the pagan gods.
The upper class looks down on the
poor native people because of their
beliefs, their race, and their poverty.
Characters and Objects
The characters are also symbols
used to show meaning and teach a
Good versus Evil
The most prominent theme in the parable of the pearl
is that of the struggle between good and evil. In
parables everything is generally black and white.
Characters are almost always one thing or Throughout
the story the songs that Kino hears in his head tells
him on an instinctual level the true nature of someone
or some thing (think of Peter Parker’s spider-sense).
person true nature. Thus, the song of evil
accompanies the Priest who treats the Indians like
children and the doctor who regards them as animals.
Good versus Evil
The song of the family accompanies the life-
sustaining morning activities and later on as
the family flees from their pursuers. To Kino
anything that threatens the family is evil. Thus
the song of evil can also accompany natural
things like the scorpion which stings Coyotito.
The pearl, also a product of nature, is never
clearly defined as inherently good or evil.
Rather its effect upon the family is shown to
be evil once it has proven to be a treacherous
holder of Kino’s dreams.
Poverty versus Wealth
The pearl’s immediate and lasting
effect upon Kino is to cause him to
dream of better things for himself and
for his family. Although the pearl
attracts attackers and pursuers, Kino
is determined that it shall be the
means by which his family rises
above their station and, most
importantly, his son achieves an
Poverty versus Wealth
In this way the story is a political one.
The story shows and draws moral
conclusions about the differences
between early nineteenth century
Mexico’s poor, characterized by the
sympathetic characters such as Kino
and Juana and the country’s rich
portrayed using unsympathetic
characters like the doctor.
Although Kino begins the story with
the “song of the family” running
through his head, he is soon
sidetracked by the desires generated
by the pearl. Though these desires
are for things that Kino believes will
make the family stronger – a rifle, a
marriage, education – It is Juana who
struggles to maintain the family as it
Significantly, it is Juana who first
suggests destroying the peal between
two stones and actually attempts to
free her family of its influence by
throwing it back into the sea. She
realizes that the family would have no
meaning without Kino and give in to
his desire to sell the pearl in the city..
Just as the family is what drives
Kino’s desires, so does the sense of
family bind Juana to his side when
she refuses to part with him during
their flight into the mountains. Once
Coyotito has been killed, however,
the family has ceased to exist and
Kino can see that the pearl, contrary
to his initial belief, has brought
nothing but bad fortune.
The operations of chance and the
effort to tell good luck from bad luck
in an underlying theme in the story.
The pearl itself is the byproduct of a
chance grain of sand embedding in
Additionally, Kino’s finding of the
pearl is depicted as the lucky moment
of collusion of being in the right place
at the right time with the right need.
The luck that that the pearl brings
Kino’s family, however, is revealed to
be bad luck when his attempt to sell it
at a fair price leads to the death of his
The struggle for survival is shown in
two different ways:
The struggle of the poor to survive
The conflict between good and evil
Free will vs. determination (everything
is fixed and you can’t change it)
Oppression by the rich and powerful
on the poor.
How wealth and possessions can
The relationship of human beings to
Characters and Objects
At first the pearl is a wonderful thing. It
represents an escape from poverty and a
chance for the Indians to eventually become
free of the domination of the Spanish. It is
wonderful luck, an accident, something sent by
Eventually, the pearl begins to corrupt everyone
it touches, even seemingly innocent people
such as Kino. He begins to think more about
the pearl than about his family. Almost
everyone seeing the pearl falls under its spell
and will do anything to get it.
Characters and Objects
Eventually, the pearl begins to corrupt
everyone it touches, even seemingly
innocent people such as Kino. He begins
to think more about the pearl than about
his family. Almost everyone seeing the
pearl falls under its spell and will do
anything to get it.
Think of the ring in “Lord of the Rings”
Steinbeck believed that there was a
bond between man and the land in
which he lives, that each is somehow
special to the other.
Mi tierra concept - my land
The Indians believed the place of
their birth to be important and
believed that they should remain in
Setting: Before finding the pearl, Kino
and his family living in harmony with
Songs and what they mean (the Song
of the Family, the Song of Evil, etc.)
Imagery of music and songs,
harmony and peace
Story begins at dawning of a new day
Songs can show the world at peace
or out of control.
Kino is living the way he is supposed
Kino and Juana have a harmonious
The man is clearly the head of the
Struggle for survival (life is a constant
Complication – intruder – the
Kino reacts; emotional (smashing the
Juana – thinks and uses logic (draws
out the poison, takes the baby to the
Doctor will only treat the baby if he is
paid. He refuses the first time when
he sees that Kino has only the poor
The servant tells Kino the doctor has
Kino must find a way to pay for
medical treatment so he goes diving
Juana uses traditional ways to fight
the poison (first, sucking the poison
out; later making a seaweed poultice)
Song of the Pearl That Might Be
Kino finds a huge pearl
The Pearl of the World
Now that Kino has the pearl, people
treat him differently
The priest, the doctor and the pearl
buyers all make plans because of the
pearl. All seem motivated by greed.
Later, Juana tells Kino the pearl is evil
and will destroy them, but Kino says
the pearl is the key to the family’s
future and a symbol of hope for all of
Chapter 3 – Kino’s dreams
With the pearl, the baby can be
Kino and Juana can get married in
They can all buy new clothes.
Kino can buy a rifle.
Coyotito can get an education and all
Kino’s people: “My son will make
numbers, and these things will make
us free because he will know and
through him we will know."
After the doctor’s visit, Kino hides the
pearl. The doctor tricks Kino into
showing where it is.
That night, someone tries to steal the
pearl. Kino attacks the person with his
Juana tells Kino the pearl is evil and
to throw it away.
Kino says the pearl is there one
chance and he will sell it the next day.
Everyone in La Paz knows that Kino
is going to sell the pearl that day.
Some say he will give it to the Pope
or buy Masses for the souls of his
family for a thousand years.
Others say he will give the money to
Everyone worries that the pearl will
destroy Kino and his family.
The people’s plans for charity are
opposite of what Kino plans for his
Good and charitable ideas are easier
when it is someone else’s money
Kino and Juana have hard decisions
to make, not matter what they do.
Juan Tomas (Kino’s brother) warns him to
get the best price for the pearl.
Once the Indians hired an agent to
negotiate for them and take the pearls to
Mexico City, but the agents were never
seen again. Some say they were stolen by
the agents; others think that the agents
were murdered and the pearls stolen from
them. In any event, the pearls are never
The priest tells the Indians that this is a
warning from God not to try and change
their place in the world.
Pearl buyer tells Kino the pearl is like
fool’s gold: too large and not valuable
He is offered 1,000 pesos; Kino says
it is worth 50,000 pesos.
The buyer seems to be trying to cheat
Kino can feel evil around him as the
other buyers inspect the pearl.
The pearl dealer, like the priest and
the doctor, tries to manipulate Kino.
He tries to cheat Kino out of his
No other pearl dealer will pay more.
By refusing to sell the pearl, Kino is
taking on the entire power structure of
his society. This could be very
Kino says he will go to the capital
(Mexico City) to sell the pearl.
The townspeople argue about
whether Kino should have taken the
Kino buries the pearl again and is
angry and terrified.
Juan Tomas says that Kino is
challenging the people in power. He
could change everything.
Juan Tomas says his friends will only
protect him if he is not in danger.
They will not do anything to
jeopardize their own safety.
That night, Kino is attacked again
when he tries to protect the pearl.
Juana says the pearl is evil and must
be destroyed. Kino says he is a man
and will not be cheated by anyone.
Kino is willing to fight for the pearl.
Kino is demanding just and respectful
Juana is the voice of reason. She
warns Kino about what could happen.
She thinks the pearl is evil.
Finding the pearl should have meant
security and prosperity. Instead, it
seems to offer only pain and danger.
Juana takes the pearl and goes to
throw it in the ocean.
Kino stops her and punches and
Kino says he is a man; Juana knows
this means that he is half insane and
half a god.
Kino is again attacked by strangers
and kills one of them.
He loses the pearl in the fight but
Juana finds it later.
Kino knows that they must run away from
the village to save their lives.
Kino finds that someone has put a hole in
his canoe. To Kino this is worse than killing
a man because a canoe does not have
sons who can seek revenge. Kino does not
even think of stealing another canoe, which
would mean starvation for the other
Juana tells him that their hut has
been searched and set on fire.
Kino hides at his brother’s house. His
brother lets him stay but only
His brother says that the pearl is the
cause of all the trouble.
Juan Tomas says that perhaps Kino should
have sold the pearl, but now it is too late.
Kino says that to give up the pearl would
be the same thing as giving up his soul.
Kino says that he will head north in the
morning and head to the capital, Mexico
Kino finds that he is willing to kill to keep
Juana begins to realize that Kino cannot
win and may end up destroying himself.
While on the journey, Kino finds
himself both excited and afraid.
Kino tells Juana that anyone who
finds them will take the pearl.
Juana wonders if maybe the pearl
really was worthless, but Kino says
no one would be trying so hard to
steal a worthless pearl.
Kino again imagines all of the things
he will do with the pearl if he sells it,
but everything he sees in the pearl
now seems evil and twisted.
They are being followed by three
trackers, one on horse with a rifle.
Kino and Juana realize they will be
killed if they are found.
Kino realizes he must kill the man on
horseback and get his rifle.
Kino tells Juana to take the baby and
leave him but she refuses.
Juana hides in a cave with Coyotito.
Kino takes off his white clothing so he
can be less visible.
The family is being hunted like
animals. Kino especially becomes like
Juana retains her human qualities.
Kino kills all three attackers, but the
baby is also killed.
When Kino and Juana return to La
Paz, he throws the pearl back into the
When he does this, he throws away
his pain along with his dreams of
Sep. 1, 2020
Dec. 25, 2019
Dec. 27, 2015
I did not make this, I do not know who did. I am uploading it so I can send it to my students.