The Pearl

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Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the Kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull's egg, as "perfect as the moon." With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security . . . A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearlexplores the secrets of man's nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.
Curriculet Details
27 Questions
29 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for high school students in 9th and 10th grade contains interactive videos exploring Steinbeck’s life and writing style, as well as annotations explaining the setting, allusions, and meaning of “The Pearl”. Students will explore the themes of greed and wealth, as well as the understanding of a parable. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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The Pearl

A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Knowing that Steinbeck based much of his writing on life experiences, think about the lesson that Steinbeck is trying to teach his readers through the story of "The Pearl." To learn more about Steinbeck's life, watch this short video.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #5

Music is an important part of human culture and Steinbeck uses music here to create a cinematic experience while reading.  Just as music plays in the background of a film, so too music is heard at various moments in the story.Based on the description provided here by Kino, what songs have you heard that could represent the Song of the Family? Explain. 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
Juana puts her lips down over the puncture and sucks hard and spits and sucks again while Coyotito screams. She does this ________. 
To learn more about the effects of scorpion's venom on children view this video from the University of Arizona. Researchers at the University of Arizona are helping children to recover from severe nerve poisoning following a scorpion sting.  (This annotation contains a video)
As you continue reading, pay careful attention to the themes and conflicts being established. Notice in this passage, Steinbeck has established conflict between rich and poor people in the area, as well as the theme of wealth. The doctor only takes care of the wealthy people in town and does not visit the indigenous folks living in the brush houses. Think also what this reveals about the character of the doctor.  
The doctor is all of the following EXCEPT ____. 
Notice the description of the doctor that Steinbeck provides and the connotation of the following phrases: "puffy little hammocks of flesh," his mouth drooped with discontent," "his voice with the fat that pressed on his throat," "the furnishings were heavy and dark and gloomy." Would you want this doctor to treat your sick family members? To learn more about connotation, watch this quick video.  (This annotation contains a video)
When the doctor says “I am a doctor, not a veterinary,” he shows _____. 

Homework #6

Nayarit is a region on the mainland of Mexico, across the water from La Paz. Examine this map to learn more.  (This annotation contains an image)
Based on this passage, what can the reader infer about home remedies versus modern medicine? Which one does Juana think is more effective? Explain.  
Think about the symbolism of pearls. Why are they a sign of wealth? To learn more about how pearls are created, watch this video.  (This annotation contains a video)
After watching the clip from the 1944 film version of "The Pearl", compare and contrast Steinbeck's literal description with how this scene is represented in the film. How is the film different from the book? What feelings are evoked in the film version versus the book version? 
Watch this short clip from the 1947 film version entitled "La perla." Steinbeck was so supportive of this project that he not only contributed to the screenplay adaptation, but also allowed it to be filmed prior to his novel's publication. The movie, a U.S.-Mexican co-production, has a Mexican director, Emilio Fernandez, and Mexican cast and crew, and it was shot simultaneously in English and Spanish versions.  (This annotation contains a video)
Watch this video to learn how to open an oyster.  (This annotation contains a video)
Notice Kino's animal-like response to finding the greatest pearl in the world. Describe a time in your life where found something important that you were looking for. Did you react in an animal-like way? Explain. 
Quiz #1 

Homework #7

Notice the motif (or pattern) of poison in this story and the continued use of connotation and denotation of words. You read about the literal use of poison with Coyotito being stung by the scorpion, and now you have the figurative or metaphoric use of the word poison. The poison in this passage represents greed.  (This annotation contains an image)
While it is unlikely that you will find the greatest pearl in the world, what would you do if you suddenly became rich?  
Notice the cinematic style of Steinbeck's writing. Much like background music in a film, Steinbeck describes the music in Kino's head to foreshadow events and provide insight into characters. As you continue reading, think about why Kino would be hearing the song of the enemy now. 
Which person evokes the song of evil for Kino? 
Notice that the doctor comes to visit Kino's hut only after the news of the pearl has spread through the town. Also, pay careful attention to how the doctor manipulates Kino into letting him examine Coyotito. Do you believe what the doctor says about the effects of a scorpion sting? To learn more, take a look at this article from the Mayo Clinic by clicking on the blue hyperlink below. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on Juana's reaction, the reader can infer that ____. 
Here is another example of Steinbeck's cinematic writing style. Steinbeck breaks up the action of the story with descriptive imagery. Readers can not only see, but also hear the setting of this story. 
What do you think made the baby sick: a delayed reaction to the scorpion venom or the doctor's white powder? Explain. 
What just happened? Write a one sentence summary of this passage. 
Could Juana's feelings about the pearl be an example of foreshadowing? To learn more about foreshadowing, watch this quick video.  (This annotation contains a video)

Homework #8

Even though Hernan Cortes visited La Paz back in 1535, this inhospitable land was barely populated until the 19th century. A strong pearl diving industry kept La Paz going until the 1930s when the oyster beds were destroyed by disease. La Paz languished until the trans-peninsular highway was completed in 1973. La Paz became the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur in 1974 and remains an important regional commercial center today. Examine this map to learn more about La Paz's location.  (This annotation contains an image)
All the following is true about the pearl buyers EXCEPT ___. 
At one time the people had hired agents to sell their pearls in the city. The agents had gone off and had never been heard from again. The people took this ____. 
Examine this Timetoast timeline about the history of the colonization of Mexico.  (This annotation has embedded rich content)
Based on this description, the reader can infer that  ____. 
Steinbeck is alluding to "the pearl of great price" from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. In this biblical parable, a pearl-buyer sells all of his earthly possessions to purchase the world’s greatest pearl. The pearl, the Gospel explains, is like the Kingdom of God – men will abandon everything they have for God’s forgiveness: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” As you continue reading, consider how Steinbeck adapts this for his own story.  (This annotation contains an image)
All of the following occurred during the scene with the pearl buyers EXCEPT which of the following events? 
Notice that the people in Kino's village of brush houses are blind to the institutional discrimination occurring. "Institutional discrimination" refers to the unjust and discriminatory mistreatment of an individual or group of individuals by organizations such as governments and corporations, financial institutions, public institutions, and other societal entities. Kino's people have been cheated all of their lives, but they seem to accept it unquestioningly. 
Have you noticed that only certain characters have names? Not only does Steinbeck incorporate cinematic elements in his writing, but he is also intentional in how he names his characters: characters he wants readers to see as individual and unique people are given names, whereas characters who are stock characters play a particular role are identified by their title. Notice that you are never given the names of the doctor, the priest, or the individual pearl buyers, but we do have the names of Kino, Juana, and Juan Tomas. It doesn't matter the name of the doctor or the pearl buyers because they could be any doctor or pearl buyer, and as Juan Tomas states, "They are all cheats." 
Notice Steinbeck's use of foreshadowing in this exchange between Juan Tomas and Kino. Why do you think Juan Tomas is afraid for Kino? 
Quiz #2 

Homework #9

What did Kino catch Juana doing? 
Remember that this story is a parable; "The Pearl" traces the transformation of man from a civilized being to his most primitive form. This change is instigated by the threat of danger. Notice Steinbeck's description of Kino and Juana as animals with Kino being the predator and Juana the prey in this example. Animalistic instinct takes over, and morality, laws, and order go by the wayside as man faces kill-or-be-killed predicaments.  
Herring clouds are clouds that appear in streaks. Notice how Steinbeck's use of description enhances the scene.  (This annotation contains an image)
Attempting to flee with his family, Kino discovers that his canoe has been irreparably damaged.  What do you think Kino means by "the killing of a man was not so evil as the killing of a boat"?  Why would a boat be more important than a person?  
Steinbeck quickly escalates the action of the story by complicating the plot. All of the following are plot complications EXCEPT ____. 
Leprosy is a disease that has been known since biblical times and occurs more commonly among those living in poverty. It causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness that gets worse over time. Those infected were often separated into leper colonies. Leprosy is curable with treatment, but being associated with social stigma for much of history has created a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment. Notice that Kino's possession of the pearl has infected others with greed and made him a social outcast. Do you think running away will solve his problems? What will be the "cure" for the townspeople's greed? Keep reading to find out. 

Homework #10

"The Pearl" is set in colonial Mexico long before the building of modern highways. It will take Kino and Juana a long time to walk from La Paz to Loreto. Examine this map to see the distance from La Paz to Loreto.  (This annotation contains an image)
Based on this passage, the reader can infer that _____. 
Did you notice that Coyotito's name looks much like the word "coyote"? Also notice the animal imagery used to describe the night. As you continue reading, think about why Steinbeck includes such animalistic details.  
Steinbeck spent much time exploring Baja California and the Sea of Cortez with his best friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, documenting their six-week expedition in 1940 in "The Log of the Sea of Cortez" which was published in 1951. Steinbeck incorporates much of what he saw in "The Pearl." The tree that Kino references here is "The Elephant Tree," or Bursera microphylla. It grows into a distinctive sculptural form, with a thickened, water-storing or caudiciform trunk. Cahuilla Indians in Southern California called the Elephant Tree "kelawat eneneka" and believed that the sap, which bleeds red like blood, had great power and was dangerous to be kept in the open. It was always hidden and used by tribal shamans in curing skin disorders and other diseases.  (This annotation contains an image)
What do you notice about the visions Kino sees in his pearl, and what is Kino beginning to realize? 
Steinbeck has foreshadowed the arrival of the trackers through Juan Tomas's story of the pearl agent, Kino's insistence on secretly fleeing from his village, and Kino's attempt to hide his family's tracks. To learn more about the skill of tracking view this video.  (This annotation contains a video)
Kino and his family flee towards the mountains for all of the following reasons EXCEPT ____. 
Examine the map to see the location of Loreto and Santa Rosalina. Do you think you could travel on foot to either city? Keep in mind that while highways are shown on this map, there were no highways in Kino's time. (This annotation contains an image)
Notice that when Juana first defied Kino by attempting to throw the pearl back into the sea, Kino struck Juana. Why does Kino only shrug his shoulders when Juana stands up to him here? What does this show you about their relationship? Explain. 
As you continue reading, note all of the references to animals. Much like the trackers following Kino's path, so too are Steinbeck's readers following Kino's transformation from a civilized human being to his most primitive form. Notice that Juana and Coyotito are also described as animals. 
Who makes the sound that the trackers hear? 
Notice how Steinbeck stretched out the previous scene to increase the tension in the story. Even after Kino kills the trackers, you are left to wonder what happened: who or what was making the cry of death from the cave? To further keep readers enthralled, Steinbeck breaks the story with an ellipsis, a series of dots that usually indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning. Readers are kept in suspense as the story switches from the mountain to La Paz and the return of Kino and Juana. We have to keep reading to find out what Steinbeck omitted.  
What can be inferred from this passage?All of the following responses are correct EXCEPT _____. 
Steinbeck came from a working-class background, and wrote "The Pearl" at the height of his fame in the 1940s. Later, in his 1962 Nobel Prize speech, Steinbeck states, “the ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.” If Steinbeck wrote "The Pearl" as a parable to expose our “faults and failures” and bring to light our “dark and dangerous dreams,” what moral lesson are readers suppose to learn from reading "The Pearl"? Explain. 
Quiz #3