Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. What do we learn about the pearl’s symbolism from the reactions it evokes?
2. Discuss Steinbeck’s use of foreshadowing in The Pearl.
3. One important element of The Pearl is the contrast between fate and human agency, between the destiny that is made for us and the destiny that we make ourselves. How do these forces interact in Kino’s story? To what extent is Kino responsible for his own demise? To what extent is fate responsible?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. How does the novella’s conclusion complete Steinbeck’s moral argument? Could the novella have ended in any other way? Is it wise of Kino to throw the pearl back into the sea, or should he have searched for another option?
2. What role does family play in The Pearl? How does the loyalty of Kino’s family members (especially Juana and Juan Tomás) affect his actions? Was Juan Tomás correct to shield Kino from the law after he had committed murder? Is Juana correct to be so submissive to him? Does either character have a choice?
3. Some critics read The Pearl as a very specific critique of the American dream of wealth and success. Is this reading plausible, or does it limit it unnecessarily? If the story is about the American dream, why is it set in a colonial Mexican society?
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