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Pat Swenson, CSUN - The Pearl
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Prof Pat Swenson

Campus Email: pat.swenson@csun.edu

Elements of Fiction

Literary Theory

Myth & Archetype: The Hero's Quest

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Department Information

Department of English

708 Sierra Tower
Phone: 818.677.3431

English Department Website

Liberal Studies Program

EA 100
Phone: 818.677.3300

Liberal Studies Website

The Pearl by John Steinbeck - Literary Discussion Guide


Describe the Characters

Describe Kino and Juana's life before and after the discovery of the pearl. What did they value? What goals were important to them? What were their dreams?

Kino and Juana live on a primitive level in their lives and their religion, yet they both want a church wedding and a christening for Coyotito. How are these values consistent with their lives? How are they contradictory?

Analyze the character of the doctor, the priest, and the pearl merchants. How are they victims of greediness? How do their actions show their greediness? Explain how they treat Kino and Juana before and after the discovery of the pearl. What judgments can be concluded regarding the fields of medicine, religion and business?

The Theme of Greed

How does greed affect Kino, Juana, and the villagers and townspeople?

What lessons can be learned about being greedy?

Did Kino and Juana learn any lessons about greed?


Person-against-self - an internal conflict of feelings.

Person-against-person - the typical protagonist vs. antagonist scenario.

Person-against-society - the protagonist battles against the larger organizations of society
(or a system of beliefs held by society).

Person-against-nature - the protagonist is threatened by a component of nature.

Symbols: The Pearl, The Canoe, Kino's Songs

What does the pearl represent?

How does the meaning of the pearl change during the course of the novel?

How do the characters view this pearl in the beginning and end of the novel?

Kino believes that it would be better to kill a person than to kill a canoe because a canoe has no relatives to revenge it. What types of values does Kino have to make such a statement?

What are the songs that Kino hears during the novel? What do each represent? At what point does he hear them?

The Book's Ending

What do you think happens to Kino and Juana after they return to their village and throw the pearl into the ocean?

Will they be accepted or punished?

Will they run away once again?