The Pearl, by John Steinbeck Section I 1. What is the setting of the story? 2. What time of day does the book start? 3. How is music important to Kino and his people? What is the first song the reader learns about? 4. Describe the house they live in. 5. Name the three members of the protagonist’s family. 6. What is important about the following passage? Kino watched with the detachment of God while a dusty ant frantically tried to escape the sand trap an ant lion had dug for him. 7. Why does the book call the night air “poisonous,” when in fact it is not actually poisonous? 8. What danger approaches the baby? 9. What is the song that comes from the scorpion? What is the scorpion a symbol of? 10. What is the other song that Kino hears while he tries to help the baby? 11. Why does Juana utter “ancient magic” and “Hail Mary”? What religions do these two come from? Why does Juana use both? 12. What happens when Kino tries to save Coyotito? 13. Why is it important that Kino keeps hitting the scorpion long after he kills it? What does this tell us about anger and revenge? What does this tell us about our ability to control the world, and evil? 14. How does Juana try to help the baby at first? What does this tell us about her character? 15. Why won’t the doctor come to them? 16. Explain the significance of the following passage about the beggars in front of the church: And they knew the doctor. They knew his ignorance, his cruelty, his avarice, his appetites, his sins. They knew his clumsy abortions and the little brown pennies he gave sparingly for alms. They had seen his corpses go into the church. 17. What does Kino notice about the man who answers the gate, and how is this important? 18. Explain the meaning of the following passage about the doctor, and his dead wife The pictures were religious, even the large tinted photograph of his dead wife, who, if Masses willed and paid for out of her own estate could do it, was in Heaven. 19. Where does the doctor wish he lived, and why? What does this say about his character? What does this say about humanity in general? 20. What does the doctor mean when he says, “Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites for ‘little Indians’? I am a doctor, not a veterinary.”? 21. What does the doctor ask for in return for treating the baby? What does Kino offer? 22. Why is the servant at the gate ashamed? 23. Why does Kino punch the gate? Why is this important, considering that it is obvious that he only hurts himself? Section II 1. On page 831, how does the image of hungry dogs and pigs, searching for dead birds and fish, help show the conditions of the town? 2. What is the importance of this comment about the mist over the town? There was no certainty in seeing, no proof that what you saw was there or was not there. 3. Why is Kino’s canoe so valuable? 4. Why do they go out into the canoe? 5. Why is this oyster bed so historically important? 6. How are pearls made? Why is the fact that pearls are “accidents” important to the story? 7. How long can Kino hold his breath? 8. How does Kino get down to the bottom and stay down without floating up? 9. What song does Kino hear while he grabs oysters? What else could we call this song? 10. When Kino sees the giant oyster, what is the “ghostly gleam” inside? 11. Why does Kino want to open the big oyster last? 12. How big is the pearl? 13. Why is it important that he must pick the pearl from “dying flesh” in order to get it? 14. Why does the author show us that the wounds on Kino’s hand (which he got when he punched the doctor’s gate) have been turned grayish-white by the seawater? 15. Why does Juana cry out loud? Why is this important? Explain why this is yet another example of the idea of providence. 16. What is the importance that Kino believes in both gods and God? Section III 1. What does everybody else in the town think of when they hear that Kino has found the pearl? In what way does the doctor change after hearing about Kino’s discovery? 2. What is the truth about how the pearl dealers work? What will this mean for Kino? What does this suggest about the modern economy, and who controls it? Do we really have a “free market”? 3. What do the pearl dealers dream about? 4. Why had Kino become everyone’s enemy? 5. What does Kino plan to do with the money he will get from the pearl? 6. What would people say if Kino’s plan worked? What would they say if it failed? 7. What does the priest want when he comes to visit Kino’s family? Why does Kino hear the song of evil when the priest comes? Why does Kino think about Coyotito reading and telling them what is in the books? 8. Why does the doctor visit? What story does he give? Why does Coyotito get sick? How does the doctor learn where the pearl is? 9. Who does Kino fear, and why? 10. What happens in the middle of the night? 11. What argument do Juana and Kino have after this? Section IV 1. What is the name of the town? 2. How have the rich people used religion to convince the poor people to stay poor, and not to try to become rich? What is the real reason why it is hard for poor people to become rich? 3. What is Kino’s brother’s name, and what warning does he give Kino? 4. Why did, in the old days, the people get together, give all the pearls to one man, and send him to the capital to sell the pearls there? What happened to the men who carried the pearls? Why did this happen? What do the people think is the reason this happened? What does this say about our impression of evil? 5. What is the name of the game of rolling a coin between your fingers? 6. What does the first dealer say about the pearl? What offer does he make? How much does Kino think it is worth? 7. How do the dealers try to trick Kino? 8. How does Kino react? 9. What will happen to the dealers for this? 10. When Juan says, “Go with God”, why does that give a strange chill to Kino? 11. Who do you think tries to steal the pearl the second time? Why? Section V 1. Where does Juana go in the middle of the night? What is she planning to do? What does Kino do when he follows her? What does she fell about his reaction? 2. What does Kino do in the third time that someone tries to steal the pearl? 3. How does the pearl get saved? 4. What else had the thieves done to prevent Kino from escaping with the pearl? How was this an insult to Kino’s family? 5. Why doesn’t Kino take someone else’s boat? What does this say about his character? 6. What happens to Kino’s house? Who does this and why? 7. What does Juan think of the pearl? How does this strengthen the theme of religion being used to deceive people about the true source of evil? What is true source? 8. How does Juan help trick the people into thinking there is no reason to suspect Kino is still in town? How else does he help Kino escape? 9. In which direction does Kino travel? Where is he going? 10. Why is the high wind important for their escape? 11. Explain the significance of the following passage: Juan Tomas embraced his brother with the double embrace and kissed him on both cheeks. “Go with God,” he said, and it was like a death. “You will not give up the pearl?” Section VI 1. What is in Loreto? How does this contribute to the theme of religion in this novel? 2. How do they travel so that their tracks will not be found? 3. What do they in the night that Kino feels are evil things? Are they really evil? Why is this important to the story? 4. In the beginning of the story, Kino watches “like a god” as an ant is eaten by an ant lion. Now, he watches ants again. He blocks their path with his, but they simply go right over it. Why is this change important to the story? 5. As they hide at the side of the road, Kino looks into the pearl for positive visions, but instead he sees the dead man, his wife after he beat her, and Coyotito sick from the doctor’s trick cure. What does this mean? 6. Who follows them? How many? Describe each of them. What will they do if they find Kino and his family? 7. Why is it important when “Kino ran for the high place, as nearly all animals do when they are pursued.”? 8. How does Juana respond when Kino tells her to go a different way, while he leads the trackers away? 9. What dramatic device is being used in this passage? (This is reference to the small pool they find in the mountains, where they stop to rest.) Everything that loved water came to these few shallow places. The cats took their prey there, and strewed feathers and lapped water through their bloody teeth. The little pools were places of life because of the water, and places of killing because of the water, too. 10. As the trackers approach the water hole, where does Kino’s family hide, and what is their plan? 11. What does Kino plan to do while the trackers and the rifle man sleep at the water hole? In what order? 12. Explain how this passage is related to the theme of evil in this book. Juana moved to the entrance and looked out. She peered like an owl from the hole in the mountain... 13. How does Kino get so close to the men? 14. Just before Kino strikes, what happens that makes him wait for a moment and sink back into the dark bushes? What does the man hear, and what does he do? Explain how this turn of events might be explained through “providence”, or religion, especially the religion Kino’s people believe in. 15. What happens to the two trackers. What does Kino do to the last tracker? Was Kino right in what he did to the last tracker? 16. What tragedy had happened to Kino’s family?
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