Study Guide

The Pearl Gender

By John Steinbeck


You've probably noticed the "no gray area allowed" pattern in these themes. Well, gender is no exception.

There is zero ambiguity in gender roles in The Pearl. The male is the leader of the household. He is dominant, he is the decision-maker, and the family’s welfare rests solely on his shoulders. The female, on the other hand, is submissive, deferent, and nearly always silent. She is, however, smart and uber-strong.

Questions About Gender

  1. At the end of The Pearl, Juana and Kino walk side by side instead of with her following behind him. Are they equals now? Were they not equals before? What would it mean for them to be equals, and how would we know from their interactions?
  2. Do Juana and Kino function effectively as a partnership? What about that whole domestic abuse thing?

Chew on This

Juana may appear to embrace the role of the submissive wife, but she is actually the dominant partner.

Juana is forced into a gender role because she has to play the part of a mother. Once Coyotito is dead, she is free to be Kino’s equal.

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