The Pearl


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The Pearl

"For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more."
--John Steinbeck



Folk Tale

The last passage has sentences that begin with And, a style typical of folk tales. The structure of the sentences is simple and compound.

There is no attempt at in-depth characterization; Kino and Juana are described in a few strong images, but we do not get into their minds. Steinbeck used the device of the songs to describe their feelings, which also gives the story the feel of a folk tale.


Animal Imagery

Kino and Juana are often compared to animals. After Kino finds the pearl, he "howls" as a dog or a wolf would. While you read look for the animal imagery used to describe both Kino and Juana.

Heroic Imagery

At the end of the novel, Kino and Juana are not walking in single file, but side by side. Therefore, find how Steinbeck changes these animal like characters into heroes.

Novel elements

Look for the conflicts, climax, rising and falling actions, and other elements that are developed throughout the novel. Make sure that you also find all the figurative language you can while you read.


A symbol is any object, action, person, or place that has a meaning in itself and that also stands for something broader than itself.

Pearl-triumph and the realization of dreams, recovery from the scorpion bits, power and money, evil and malignant object, a marriage in church, clothes, a harpoon, a rifle, schooling for Coyotito, freedom from ignorance, evil and destruction.

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Choose one of the following essays:
  1. Good and Evil:

    Taken from the introduction of the story: "If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life in to it..." this phrase expresses that this story is meaningful to all who read it. In an essay, explain how a parable is similar to a tale, fable, or legend, and how the theme of good and evil can be understood by all who read it. Look at the style of this novel. If this is a folktale, how can it also be a parable?

  2. Greed:

    Explain what this quote means and how it relates to the novel: "For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want more." Why would this be a theme of this novel? Can you give examples of this? How is this true of everyone? What would you do if you were to win a fortune?

  3. Historical Background:

    Give a historical background of these characters: Kino, Juana and the doctor. They live in a small village named La Paz, Mexico, but how are these characters similar to people you may meet in everyday life? What are their lives like? Do they have similar or different luxuries than we have? Would you want to be like them?

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    You will find research information for your essay by clicking on the Pearl Research page. Remember, you must click on the Back button in order to return to this page, or type in the address:

    Other sites include:
    Ms. Sokalski's site
    The Antlion Pit
    Scott Anderson's Review
    Review by Joelle S.
    School Paper on THE PEARL

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    PROJECT CHOICES FOR THE PEARL (choose one of the following):

    1. Build a model of La Paz: If you choose to build a model of the village where Kino and Juana live, remember to include their huts and what you think the village looks like. Using a piece of plywood, cardboard, or some other hard surface and popsicle sticks, or other materials, students will create a model of La Paz (according to how they perceive it to be). These projects will be graded on effort and time commitment as well as creativity.

    2. Create a pamphlet/flier on La Paz: Using a sheet of blank paper, pictures, and other materials, students will create a flier or pamphlet advertising the city and the legend of the pearl. Students will need to gather facts for this project from the internet or encyclopedias. Students will need to have a collage of both pictures of the city (can be drawn) and text explaining what can be done in the village (remember, this La Paz is on the Baja Peninsula, not in Columbia). This tourist brochure should be done well enough to attract someone to go there. Be sure to include a brief excerpt on the parable that we are reading! For more information see On-Line Information on La Paz, Mexico

    3. Write an epitaph for Coyotito and a letter to him from his mother:This assignment requires the student to do two parts: first, create an epitaph (a commemorative inscription on a tomb or monument) and a letter. Both items will need to be a complete memoriam to Coyotito. This project has to parts: an epitaph and a letter. The epitaph should be brief, but the letter from Juana to Coyotito should be about a page and a half to two pages in length.

    4. Give a news report on the parable:A news report is an oral project where you would be a news reporter discussing the events taking place in La Paz. You may do this with a friend in your class. This news report will be a presentation of the story of The Pearl. Students will be graded on creativity and accuracy.


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    updated August 8, 1999

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    These pages were developed through GirlTECH, a teacher training program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center. Pages copyright July 1999 by Sarah Fattore-Castro.
    Thanks to the RGK Foundation and EOT-PACI for its generous support of GirlTECH.