Study Guide

The Pearl Family

By John Steinbeck

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Family is idealized in The Pearl—it's "warmth […], safety […], the Whole." Basically, it's all that and a bag of chips.

Main character Kino protects his family above all else (even himself) and he does so with an almost animalistic fervor. He's a papa bear. Family is closely tied to gender roles in this text, since the duties of mother and father, husband and wife are an important part of identity.

Questions About Family

  1. What is the effect of the side characters Juan and Apolonia? How does Kino’s extended family function in the story as compared to his immediate family?
  2. Do Kino’s neighbors function more as his family or as his enemy?
  3. Is Kino’s judgment compromised by the love he has for his family?
  4. Kino and Juana seem to have a great partnership and loving relationship to their son. Why do they feel it’s so important to get married officially in a church and to have Coyotito baptized?

Chew on This

Kino and Juana are so restricted by their prescribed, gender-based roles in the family unit their relationship is an unhealthy and destructive one.

Because Kino and Juana still have each other at the novel’s conclusion, the ending to The Pearl is an optimistic one.

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