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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Pearl is Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck's interpretation of a Mexican folk story in which a poor pearl diver's life is changed by the discovery of a very large gem. This short novel makes an excellent introduction to literary criticism, as the author's use of symbolism is fairly simple for teen readers to analyze and understand. However, the message put forth by the book -- that man invites evil by trying to better his situation -- invites a lot of questions. Also, gender roles in the book are very old-fashioned, as the story offers a portrayal of poor, uneducated Mexican people as simple folk who live unquestioningly, as generations before them have lived.
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What's the story?
A pearl diver named Kino and his wife, Juana, live with their only child, Cayotito, in a brush hut near the sea in Baja, California. Cayotito becomes ill, but Kino and Juana do not have the money to pay for a doctor's care. Kino prays that he will find a pearl large enough to exchange for the money to get Cayotito the help he needs. When he finds the \"pearl of the world,\" however, evil forces threaten him and his precious family.
Is it any good?
Steinbeck's retelling of this Mexican folk tale, The Pearl, is beautiful and lyrical. The author uses evocative language to describe Kino's world and his emotional journey. In this novel, every feeling and every important part of Kino and Juana's world has a "song" that the characters "sing" to each other and hear in their hearts -- the song of evil, the song of family, the song of hope. It's a simple story, told with power and poetry by one of America's all-time greatest novelists.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the moral suggested by The Pearl -- that a man lets evil in by trying to change his life. Was Kino wrong to keep the pearl? Is Kino a good man? What, if anything, should he have done differently?
What does the pearl represent in the book?
Gender roles in The Pearl are very old fashioned, with Juana baking corncakes and tending Cayotito while Kino dives for pearls. How do you feel about the husband/wife relationship here?
Why do you think this book is considered a classic, and why do you think it's required reading for so many students?
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