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Book Buddy ! > The Pearl ~ Feb. 2017

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message 1: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 06, 2017 08:21AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments What is this ? A Buddy Read ! All are welcome to join in.

Book: The Pearl by John Steinbeck The Pearl

John SteinbeckJohn Steinbeck

• Birth—February 27, 1902
• Where—Salinas, California USA
• Death—December 20, 1968
• Where—New York, NY
• Awards—Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, 1940;
Nobel Prize, 1962.

When Start reading around February 12, 2017 Read at your own pace.
The discussion will run to the end of February.

Where? The discussion will be held in this thread.

Spoiler etiquette
The book has 6 chapters.
If you are discussing a major plot element, please put at the top of your post the *** Chapter # and SPOILER
If you are discussing the entire novel with spoilers please write
** Comments concerning entire novel to follow--- At the top of your post


Book Details
~Pages-90
~First published in 1947
~The book is available in all formats: eBook, Audio book, paper book

Synopsis
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 Pearl explores the secrets of man's nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.


message 2: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 05, 2017 09:13PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Discussion Questions

* Questions may contain spoilers. You may want to read the questions after you finish the book.

-- From publisher

1. Why can neither Kino nor Juana protect their baby from the scorpion?

2. Why could Kino kill the doctor more easily than talk to him?

3. Why is it important to Juana that Kino be the one to throw the pearl back into the sea?

4. Why does Kino think the killing of a man is not as evil as the killing of a boat?

5. What does the narrator mean when he says, "A town is a thing like a colonial animal" (p. 21)?

6. Why does the music of the pearl change?

7. Why does Kino come to feel that he will lose his soul if he gives up the pearl?

8. Why does Tomás help Kino?

9. Why does Juana feel the events following the pearl's discovery may all have been an illusion?

10. What is the significance of Juana and Kino's walking side by side when they return to the town?


For Further Reflection

1. Did Kino do the right thing in demanding a fair price for the pearl, even if it meant leaving his community?

2. Why does Steinbeck choose the parable as the form for this story?

--------------------

From: www.shmoop.com

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

1- Kino throws away the world’s most valuable pearl. Smart decision? Poor decision? Right decision?

2- If this book critiques capitalism and the American Dream, why is it set in colonial Mexico?

3-Why are the intruders, attackers, and trackers in the book faceless?

4- When Kino and Juana return to La Paz, it is described as "an event that happened to everyone." Everyone in the novel, or everyone in the world? How is this possible?

5- Kino and Juana are "removed from human experience" upon their return to La Paz. What does this mean? Were they removed by their experience of pain, or did they choose to remove themselves as a recourse to their pain?

6- To what degree is The Pearl realistic? Where does the realism falter and where does it ring true?


message 3: by Alia (last edited Feb 05, 2017 11:13PM) (new)

Alia The American Dream is probably just as realizable anywhere else, so long as you have it in you to exploit people for your own gain. Mexico is affected by US capitalism. But mostly I think it is set in Mexico because pearl divers are few and far between in the US.

It would have been a different story had it been about a coal miner finding a diamond, or someone during a gold rush finding a gigantic gold nugget. Not to mention that Kino the American could have sued the doctor for medical neglect.

On a metaphoric level, it could be about "diving deep" to find riches of the soul. In Jungian interpretations (granted, of fairy tales) water always represents the subconscious, and had this been a fairy tale it could have symbolized things starting to go right. Alas, it is not a fairy tale, but it's a marvelous set-up: making the pearl go from representing saving the baby to representing material wealth and status.


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 06, 2017 08:18AM) (new)

I'll try to join in because:

- It is short, although generally I haven't enjoyed Steinbeck novels in the past. (Forced high school reading)

- It seems everyone has read it but me.

- Did I mention, it is short? ;-)

Okay, just lightening the mood a little, Alias. I'm done.


message 5: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 06, 2017 08:23AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments I haven't read the story yet. I'll be reading it closer to the date stated, Feb 12th.

I'll keep your review in mind,Alia. Thanks !

Please remember Spoiler etiquette as I posted in the first post of this thread.

When giving out plot elements please put
***Spoiler and Chapter # -- or write ***Comments concerning entire book to follow ---at top of your post. Thanks !


message 6: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9291 comments SPOILER but NOT...

Alia, i think this story is ripe with metaphors and such. This group should have a good time with it.


message 7: by Klela (new)

Klela I'm in!!


message 8: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9291 comments This book is available for free online. I found this resource, which looks good & easy to follow. http://www.mrlocke.net/EnglishOne/Nov... At the bottom you click to proceed to the next chapter.

This is what i'll be using for reference, btw.


message 9: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Thanks, Deb !


message 10: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments Will start on Monday. Looking forward to read it with you all!


message 11: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments It looks like we have a nice little group forming !


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I started reading this morning but will wait for others to catch-up.


message 13: by Klela (new)

Klela I just finished reading the first chapter and i'm only going to say that i really like that Kino has a music for the moment of his life: The Song of the Family, The Song of Evil...i think that says everything we need to know about that moment, without having to use a lot of words. It sets the mood of the scene.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Good point, Klela. :-) That does really set the tone and imagery for the story.

I am through Chapter 2.
Now I am wondering what the songs represent beyond a sense of good and evil? Maybe (view spoiler)


message 15: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments I'm almost done.

Regarding the music. I thought it represented the oral tradition of his people.

I really like the way he wrote this. I think it's a book one needs to read slowly to capture it's beauty.


message 16: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments What did you all think of the epigraph ?

"In the town they tell the story of the great pearl – how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife, Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story has been told so often, it has taken root in every man's mind. And, as with all retold tales that are in people's hearts, there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil things and no in-between anywhere.

"If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it. In any case, they say in the town that…"

It alerts the reader to the fact that this novella will be a parable. According to Wiki -- A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles.

I thought it interesting that he says there are no shades of gray.
Since in real life there is a whole swath of life to be lived in the gray area. Is this because this is a story that was told orally and handed down through the generations? Since Steinbeck tell us it's a parable what "lesson" is he about to impart to us?

Notice the quotation marks. Who is being quoted ?


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Alias Reader wrote: "Notice the quotation marks. Who is being quoted ? ..."

(Noting I haven't finished the book.)

At first I thought maybe Steinbeck himself was being quoted, or some omniscient narrator, like Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone. I know the latter isn't correct, but I could hear Serling's voice reading those words. My husband watches too many Twilight Zone marathons and so indirectly, I do too.


message 18: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments I wish my library had the audio of this book. I think it would lend itself well to that format.


message 19: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Gosh, I haven't seen The Twilight Zone in decades. I have to keep an eye out for reruns on one of the channels that run old shows.


message 20: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 12, 2017 03:26PM) (new)

Alias Reader wrote: "Gosh, I haven't seen The Twilight Zone in decades. I have to keep an eye out for reruns on one of the channels that run old shows."

They usually show them on holidays, such as New Year's Day and three day weekends, I guess to fill in the programming. I will try to remember to post the next time one is coming up. :-)


message 21: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments I just checked. They are on YouTube.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

:-)


message 23: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 12, 2017 06:42PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments When I started the book I was thinking about the symbolism of a pearl. Here are a few things I found online.

Pearl gemstone meaning

The pearl is the oldest known gem, and for many centuries it was considered the most valuable. Unlike all gems, the pearl is organic matter derived from a living creature - oysters and mollusks.

There is much folklore and tradition about the pearl. In fact so much history accompanies this stone that five months claim it as a birthstone - February, April, June (traditional), July and November.

The pearl is an astral stone for the signs Gemini and Cancer, and astrologers link it to the moon. It was said in some early cultures that the pearl was born when a single drop of rain fell from the heavens and became the heart of the oyster. Pearls have been called the 'teardrops of the moon'. Some believe that pearls were formed by the passage of angels through the clouds of heaven.

Over time, the pearl has become the symbol of purity and innocence and it is often sewn into bridal gowns, or worn as jewelry by the bride.

---------------------


Matthew 13:45-46King James Version (KJV)

45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:

46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
King James Version (KJV)

---------------------------

Pearls are unique among gemstones because they don’t arise from the depths of the earth but from the sea. They require no special cutting or polishing to maximize their lustrous beauty, which has been treasured since ancient times and ensures that pearl jewelry is always in style.

The Symbolism of Pearls
In many ancient societies pearls symbolized the moon and were imbued with magical properties. Ancient Chinese civilizations believed that wearing pearls protected a person from fire and dragons, and other cultures have associated them with chastity and modesty. In Victorian England small seed pearls were often used in mourning jewelry to symbolize tears.


message 24: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Scorpion Symbolism & Meaning

Different cultures have attributed various meanings to the scorpion. In Greco-Roman mythology it is a symbol of death, associated with a scorpion that stung Orion's foot, killing him. The ancient Egyptians thought the scorpion was an omen and amulets were made in scorpion shapes as symbols of protection and to ward off evil. In Samaria, the scorpion is connected to the sun and scorpion-men are depicted in ancient writings as guardians of the sacred gateways to enlightenment and pleasure.
------------

Symbolic Meanings of the Scorpion

Sex
Control
Transition
Death/Dying
Passion
Treachery
Protection
Defensiveness
Solitary/Being Alone


message 25: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9291 comments Good research on all parts, Alias. Thanks.

As a Scorpio, i see several of the meanings also define that astrological sign. As a Scorpio it is one i've looked at often in horoscopes.


message 26: by Alia (new)

Alia So, it symbolizes Kino's naiveté? A bit of cynicism would indeed have helped him when it came to the doctor, at least. It did help him in dealing with the businessmen. Taking your innocence out of the subconscious to look at it – works for a while, might backfire.

The baby, too, must symbolize innocence.


message 27: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Alia wrote: "So, it symbolizes Kino's naiveté? A bit of cynicism would indeed have helped him when it came to the doctor, at least. It did help him in dealing with the businessmen. Taking your innocence out of ..."

Oh how I hated that doctor !



Chapter 3 SPOILER




Do you think the doctor deliberating gave the baby something to make him sick ? I do !


message 28: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Alia wrote: "A bit of cynicism would indeed have helped him when it came to the doctor, at least. "

Chapter 3

The problem he had was he knew he was uneducated. He couldn't risk his sons life on the going with his gut instinct.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Alias Reader wrote: "Do you think the doctor deliberating gave the baby something to make him sick ? I do !
..."


Oh, I totally agree. That doctor is evil. Probably not talented enough to cure someone but greedy enough to make someone ill, purposely.


message 30: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Chapter 4

What do you think of the scam set up that the diamond buyer had?
He makes it look like there is competition, but they all work for one person.

It seems like the deck is stacked against the people every which way they turn. :(


message 31: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments Nearly finished too.

First of all, thank you Alias for proposing this book, I'm really enjoying it. I never read anything by John Steinbeck before and I definitely want to read some more. This one is as beautiful as short!

The descriptions are wonderful and literally depict every scene so clearly that feels like seeing with the characters eyes. The use of the songs contribute to create the atmosphere around the events. Really clever and well used technique I think.

In the Penguin Modern Classic introduction, which by the way spoiled the whole book, I never learn the lesson to read it afterwards, it is said that Stainbeck wrote the Pearl to be then use as a script for a movie. The use of the songs and the description of the scenes are part of this purpose. It kind of makes sense to me, but I appreciate the fact that the book still feels a novel and not a screen play.


BOOK COMMENTS UP TO CHAPTER 6

The doctors and the traders are so repugnant that seriously made me angry reading these pages. Like you Alias, I thought the doctor wanted to poison the baby intentionally, to then claim that he did all he could to save him, but it was just too late. It wasn't that way, but I still think his treatment was useless.

The books about people desperately trying to improve their condition, but then overcome by misfortune, always make me feel sad and upset against the society. In this sense, The Pearl reminded me of one of my favorite books The House by the Medlar Tree by Giovanni Verga. The context is different, is 17th century and we are in a fishermen village in Sicily. The language is crude and brutal in places, a completely different style form Steinbeck, but as in the Pearl, the impossibility of a man to enhance is social condition from poverty because of misfortune and others dishonesty is the core of the story.


message 32: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 14, 2017 06:31AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments I'm glad you are enjoying the book Francesca. I have a handful of pages to go until the end.

If you are looking for another short Steinbeck, I really enjoyed Travels with Charley: In Search of America

The one that I would put in my top all time read novels that I've read is
The Grapes of Wrath

If you can I would recommend the Norton Critical edition. Not only are there good footnotes but it has fascinating commentaries. Some of them are reviews of the book that were written at the time of publication.


message 33: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments Thanks for your advice Alias!
The Grapes of Wrath was one of those I was looking at with Of Mice and Men. I didn't think about Travels with Charley: In Search of America but, now that I have checked what is it about, among them sounds like the book I will enjoy the most, I might go for that first :)!


message 34: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9291 comments Francesca M wrote: "The descriptions are wonderful and literally depict every scene so clearly that feels like seeing with the characters eyes. The use of the songs contribute to create the atmosphere around the events. Really clever and well used technique I think. ..."

This book was required reading in high school when i was going. It is ideal because it's short yet a good opportunity to illustrate symbolism and society.

I agree about the citizens of the town. Many feel threatened by the immigrants. I'm not sure if this has changed much today with individuals but overall i think the US realizes how vital newcomers are to our well being. Or am i deluding myself? Hmmm.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

I am enjoying reading all the comments here.

I think Steinbeck's novel is depicting extremely polarized ends of a spectrum, especially in terms of behavior and ethics. I would like to believe that most people are somewhere in between, however lately I wonder.

In reference to early posts, the scorpion and pearl could have various symbolic meanings but they certainly foreshadow upcoming events. Kind of like background music in movies, which lets the audience know something good or bad is gonna happen. (Thanks Alias, for the information.)


message 36: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 14, 2017 05:00PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Chapter 5 & 6 SPOILER

What did you feel about Juana attempting to throw the pearl away?
What did you think of Kino hitting her?

I can understand his anger. As I was reading this I was hoping he got to her in time. All he wants is a better life for his son. A life he was never given a chance at.

However, hitting Juana with a "clenched fist" was going way too far. I was sympathetic towards him before that.

I think Steinbeck first foreshadowed the change in him when in the first chapter he is gentle with the dog.
Page 3
"A thin , timid dog came close and, at a soft word form Kino, curled up...." However, later in Chapter 3 after he has the pearl.
chapter 3 "The thin dog came to him and threshed itself in greeting like a windblown flag, and Kino looked down at it and didn't see it."

Again in the same chapter "The skinny black puppy with flame spots over his eyes came to Kino's door and looked in. He nearly shook his hindquarters loose when Kino glance up at him, and he subsided when Kino looked away."

It's just like the wealthy treated Kino and his people. The ignore or simple don't see them.

Also note the ants and the contrast with how Kino responds.
Page 3 "The ants were busy on the ground, big black ones with shiny bodies, and little dusty quick ants. Kino watched with the detachment of God while a dusty ant frantically tired to escape the sand trap an ant lion had dug for him."

Then later in chapter 6
"He watched the ants moving, a little column of them near to his foot, and he put his foot in their path. Then the column climbed over his instep and continued on its way, and Kino left his foot there and watched them move over it."

He is no longer watching with detachment but actively putting up a roadblock. He is making life more difficult for ants. For what reason? His own enjoyment. To feel superior because he could. It's a bully tactic. Though he is not successful. He is not a god.


message 37: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Chapter 2

I was just looking at my notes and saw that I made note of this well written line.

"In the surface of the great pearl he could see dreams formed."


message 38: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 14, 2017 04:37PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Francesca, I misspoke. I just was looking over my books and noticed that the Grapes of Wrath copy I have is the Viking Critical Edition.
The Grapes of Wrath Text and Criticism by John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism

It contains essays that place the novel in social context. It includes a 1942 essay about migrant workers and the reception of the novel received when published.


message 39: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments chapter 3 page 29

Here was another quote from the book that I liked.

"A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked."


message 40: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Chapter 5

Kino-- "This pearl has become my soul."

Wow. Before it was his family that was his soul/heart.


message 41: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Francesca M wrote: "Thanks for your advice Alias!
The Grapes of Wrath was one of those I was looking at with Of Mice and Men. I didn't think about [book:Travels with Charley: In Search of Am..."


Of Mice and Men is on my Determination List this year. If you haven't read it by the time I get around to it I'll let you know in case you want to read it together.


message 42: by Alia (new)

Alia Alias Reader wrote: "Chapter 5 & 6 SPOILER

What did you feel about Juana attempting to throw the pearl away?
What did you think of Kino hitting her?

I can understand his anger. As I was reading this I was hoping he g..."


This. All your examples indicate that Kino feels disconnected from his social group, his "tribe" as well as his family. It makes an abuser of him. Certainly, some people can handle never feeling a part of a group, and will hold themselves to ethical standards without the social pressure, but they usually haven't been thrust into it by suddenly becoming rich.

Is anyone else reminded of Gollum?


message 43: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16832 comments Alia wrote: This. All your examples indicate that Kino feels disconnected from his social group, his "tribe" as well as his family. It makes an abuser of him. Certainly, some people can handle never feeling a part of a group, and will hold themselves to ethical standards without the social pressure, but they usually haven't been thrust into it by suddenly becoming rich.."

It seems to me the pearl makes him change. However, I don't sense greed on his part. His main desire is an education for his son. His other wishes are really quite tame; new clothes and a rifle.

He seeks fairness.


message 44: by Alia (new)

Alia Not for the ants or the dog.


message 45: by Francesca M (last edited Feb 15, 2017 03:14AM) (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments I felt that the disconnection of Kino from his tribe happens when he found the pearl and a possibility for his social condition improvement happens. People start to get jealous around him and with the exception of his brother and wife he can't really trust anyone.

I think Kino was a simple and nice man which became the victim of his own fortune. Although he turn into a murder and arrives to hit his own wife, I didn't felt that his interest ever became self centered thou. Even in his personal reflections he keeps stressing how the pearl will enable his baby to study and his family to live a more decent life. All his bad actions in a way are the reaction of the fear of lose everything and the consequential lack of trust of the others except his family. The way he starts see negative images in the pearl, but keeps pushing himself to think positive, I believe was an hint of the process of losing his self control over fears.

The doctor behavior and the attempt of the traders to cheat him and steel his fortune increased even more his sense of uncertainty and made him act the way he did, but deep inside he never become an evil person, he's just not able to handle the events.

Anyway this is my interpretation :)


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

Alia, I can see some Gollum-like character changes, in that Kino becomes obsessed with the pearl and has a distrust nearly everyone (except his wife and brother). Also, the pearl does seem to have a sort of mystical power over him. There is that same duality in personality, although Gollum is greedy in comparison and rarely shows any empathy or remorse.


message 47: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9291 comments Lisa Ann ✿ wrote: "I think Steinbeck's novel is depicting extremely polarized ends of a spectrum, especially in terms of behavior and ethics. I would like to believe that most people are somewhere in between, however lately I wonder. ..."

I agree that Steinbeck is writing about the two ends & not the bulk of the town/society. Most people were probably able to avoid interacting with uncomfortable people/situations, which is why they are in the middle. Good folks, just not called upon to select a side. (Also, in light of your "lately" comment, the radicals, true hate-mongerers will hide in the shadows, too. If, the dr., for instance, went public with his disdain, who knows what would follow? Graffiti, burning crosses, confrontations?)

Just my opinion.


message 48: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Francesca, I misspoke. I just was looking over my books and noticed that the Grapes of Wrath copy I have is the Viking Critical Edition.
The Grapes of Wrath Text and Criticism by John Steinbeck[b..."


Thank you Alias, i will try do get hold of the same edition!!!


message 49: by Teri (new)

Teri (teriboop) | 15 comments Just checking in and seeing this Buddy Read, so I'll join in and comment as I get through the reading. I haven't read Steinbeck in years.


message 50: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Francesca M wrote: "Thanks for your advice Alias!
The Grapes of Wrath was one of those I was looking at with Of Mice and Men. I didn't think about [book:Travels with Char..."


Yes, please do! I will hold on till you read it, I will definitely enjoy it more as a buddy read! :)
Also sorry for my late replays, I just saw your messages now...


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