The Pearl Guide | KCSE Setbooks Guide
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The Pearl Guide

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Chapter one

The author uses detailed description to set the story in the brush village where our protagonist Kino
lives with his family. We learn about the simple life the people lead and the early mornings Kino and his
wife wake to begin the day. Between Kino and the wife, there is little conversation but actions speak.
Although the morning is peaceful and Kino is to enjoy his breakfast, he is rudely interrupted by a
scorpion making its way on a rope to the hanging box where his baby boy Coyotito lay.

 

 

Although Kino is steady enough to prance at the scorpion, the movement in the cot causes the scorpion
to fall into the cot biting the boy. In their desperation, Kino and his wife Juana decide to take the child to
the town to see the doctor. The rest of the village and the idle in the town follow Kino to see the
reaction of the doctor who was used to seeing people with man most of whom were not Kino’s people.

The doctor turns them down because Kino’s payment was valueless pearls. Kino is infuriated but there
was nothing he could do but return home.

 

 

Observation from the chapter

Kino and his wife lead a silent life each clinging to their own thoughts. There is a striking difference
between Kino and wife in that when Juana wakes up she walks on bear feet but Kino uses sandals.

 

The difference in Kino and his wife is also the difference between the town people and Kino’s people
who live in brush houses. Kino’s people hold the people in high esteem as seen with the servant and so
does Kino’s wife hold her husband.

 

Poverty and lack of money causes Kino and his wife not to get the medical attention deserved for their
first born and only son.

 

Questions from the Chapter

Do you think it is appropriate to quantify someone’s life in monetary terms?
Kino’s people used to make songs, what do you think made them to stop making new songs?
Why do you think the people in the town left Kino and Juana at the gate after the doctor had declined to
attend to Coyotito?


Themes from the chapter

 

 

Poverty
Kino and his people live in brush houses, dress poorly and sleep clothed in the love of God and the rags.
The assessment of the beggars at the church (pg25) places Kino and his people among the poor- people
who cannot afford the luxuries of life and a doctor. In fact the doctor declines to look at their helpless
infant even after offering the pathetic worthless pearls Kino had (pg28).

Contentment
Though Kino and his people live from hand to mouth, they seem contented with life. Kino enjoys waking
up in the morning to wait patiently for breakfast (pg20) and working with his wife at pearl hunting
(pg23).

Sycophancy
The beggars in town are said to know every person’s character, especially those who went to the
church. The doctor is described to be mean and greedy given the pennies he gives in alms. The doctor,

though a religious man procured abortions and the women who asked for such services were frequent
church goers (pg25 and 27).

Opulence
The city of stone and plaster has harsh outer walls and inner cool gardens beautiful with well watered
flower gardens, caged birds and splash of cooling waters (pg24). In his chamber, the doctor has
expensive furnishings and delicate expensive utensils- some oriental while others new (pg27).

Shame
Though Kino had come with a large crowd, when the doctor turns him down, he is left alone in shame.
The servant who came to inquire about their business too feels the shame of having to lie to his people
given the grave matter that had brought them to seek the doctor.

Religion
One of the central buildings in the city of stone a plaster is the church. Although the church stands as
center of moral authority, the people in the town are morally corrupt. Kino’s people on the other hand,
grapple with their traditions and the new religion. Juana repeated the ancient magic to ward of the evil
of the scorpion while at the same time saying Hail Mary loudly.

Evil
Kino wakes up to a morning different from other mornings, unusually bright with the song of the family
in his heart. However, Evil comes in the form of the scorpion which bites his only son Coyotito. The
writer uses a song to mark the entry of bad omen “... and he could hear the evil music of the enemy.”
(pg21)

Superstition
Juana is afraid for her son when the scorpion slithers down the rope to the baby’s cot. Not knowing
which god holds the highest authority, she prays both to the gods of her people and Hail Mary in order
to ward of the oncoming evil. Many societies, whose religion was there before the advent of
Christianity, find themselves at crossroads when dealing with events beyond human control. Many like
Juana find that invoking both is better than taking a stand.

 

Family

Kino is a contented man in the beginning of the chapter. When he wakes up in the morning, the first
thing he does is look at the hanging box to make sure that his baby is okay before he turns his attention
to his wife. It is the song of the family that makes him happy even when outside he enjoys the music of
the family as Juana does her morning chores (pg18).

 

Christianity/Catholicism

On the surface, Kino’s people are Christianity. Juana mutters “Hail Mary,” to convince herself that she
has truly embraced the new religion. However, the old religions is still deeply embedded within her soul.

 

 

 

Styles and stylistic Devices

 

 

Simile: (pg23) “she was like a strong man.” “...as cold as the eyes of a lioness.”


Contrast: (pg24) The author clearly shows the distinction between the inner and outer walls of the town
of stone and plaster. Also within the chapter, there is the description of inside Kino’s Brush house (pg18)
and the doctor’s house (pg27). 

 

Finally, Kino is contented (pg17) with his life while the doctor is
discontented (pg27). Juana walks on hard bare feet while Kino wears sandals (pg17).


Chapter two

Steinbeck figuratively expands the setting to the ocean in this chapter in order to lay ground to the
economic activity of Kino’s people. When Kino and his wife arrive from their overtures in town, they
head straight to the sea to hunt for pearls. Before they join the other pearlers, Juana applied seaweed
on the scorpion wound on Coyotito’s shoulder. While in the sea, Kino finds the pearl of the world- a
fortune that may change his life forever.

 

Observations from the chapter

Defeated by their own poverty, Juana decides to use traditional remedy to heal the scorpion wound on
her son. Although the method had been tried and tested as an effective method to cure scorpion bites,
Juana does not trust it the way she believes in western medicine.

 

Questions from the chapter

Description is the bane of good writing, find a location you enjoy visiting and write a two paragraph
description of the place. use the style and tone used in the chapter.
There are several twists in chapter one and two. For example, Kino wakes up to an optimistic day only to
be dampened by the scorpion sting and the doctor’s refusal to heal their son. Find another twist in
chapter two. Explain how effective Steinbeck is in changing the flow of the story.

 


Themes from the chapter

 

 

Poverty
In chapter one, we come across a very contented Kino, however poor he is. In this chapter, we come
across Kino source of livelihood; pearl hunting. The fact that he inherited the boat he uses tells us that
he barely makes enough for his livelihood. The boat was one of the most valuable things Kino possessed
despite its age (pg32.)

 

Fate/luck
Kino and his people lived with belief in destiny and luck. The tedious pearl hunting activities were an
exploit of chance. No one knew what the day would bring as they went along with their main economic
activity (pg34).

 

Superstition
When Kino finds the oyster containing the pearl, he hides his excitement and impatience. Juana also
notices Kino’s excitement but pretends because they believe that it is not good to want something too
much (pg36)

 

Faith/hope
Kino is hopeful that when he dives, he will find something to help him take his son to the hospital. He
also knows that Juana is praying for such a miracle (pg35). It also seems that Kino and his people have
lost faith in their traditional remedies against local treatment. Although Juana had covered Coyotito’s
wound with seaweed, she does not believe it could work (pg33).

 

 

Styles and stylistic devices from the chapter

 

 

Personification: (pg31) “... buildings hugging the beach.” “the sea bottom was rich with..” “the morning
was young...” (pg33) “..the canoe creased the water and hissed with speed.”

 

Simile: (pg32) “a shimmer that looked like water.” (pg33) “.. minds of people are unsubstantial as the
mirage of the gulf.” (pg34) “...with ruffles like skirts...” (pg37) “...perfect as the moon,” “... as large as a
sea gull’s egg.”

 


Chapter Three

 

The news of Kino’s find spreads throughout the town. For the first time Kino’s house becomes vibrant
with people milling around to see the great pearl. The priest pays them a visit and early into the night,
the doctor visits to offer his belated services to Coyotito who had been bitten by a scorpion.

 

Although Kino bears delusions of grandeur, he realises that the great pearl also poses a great danger to
him and his family. The fortune of the pearl is his because he found it but others would also want to gain
it. That night while asleep, someone tries to steal it from him. The deeply superstitious Juana believes
that the pearl is evil. She begs Kino to throw it away. Kino reassures her that he is a man and he would
not let anything harm them.

 

Observations from the Chapter

Although everyone in the neighbourhood is happy for Kino, their intentions are varied. The priest, for
instance, sees how the great pearl will be of benefit to him and the church. The doctor, on the other
hand, comes to claim his rightful share by ‘curing’ Coyotito. Despite this, there is growing envy for the
pearl that some people are ready to rob while on the other hand, Kino is ready to put his family at risk to
safeguard his hard earned wealth.

 

 

Questions from the chapter

 

A great fortune is always bestowed on those with wealth. Discuss the validity of this statement basing
your answer on what is going on in the chapter.


What do you think Kino should do to get the most from his pearl?


Establish the relevance of the Swahili saying “Maskini akipata, matako hulia mbwata’ (When the poor
gets some wealth, the bottoms (butt) go mbwata” with what is happening in the chapter.

 


Themes from the Chapter

 

 

Opportunism

Though it is Kino who finds the pearl, everyone starts thinking about how the great pearl could be of
benefit to them. The priest thinks about the necessary repairs to the church (pg41) and the doctor
seriously considers Kino as his client (pg42) for the first time, he goes to the brush houses to treat Kino’s
son (pg51). The beggars too want to share in Kino’s fortune.

 

Fear/Insecurity

 

The excitement in Kino is replaced by fear. Although he was optimistic of what the pearl would do, he
grows very fearful and suspicious (pg48) of what may become of him with such good fortunes. His fear
grows into the defensive one someone breaks into his brush house and tries to steal the pearl (pg58).


Juana too fears that the pearl may destroy their family’s peace and quiet and she requests her husband
to throw the evil pearl away (pg59).

 

Optimism/Excitement/ Envy/Expectations

 

When the book begins, Kino’s people- those in brush houses- seem destined to live in poverty. But,
when Kino finds the pearl, there seem to be a ray of hope and the once dull village becomes vibrant.


Everyone is excited to see the pearl. In fact, for the first time, Kino’s people see the priest and the doctor
come into their neighbourhood. The excitement builds in Kino optimism. He dreams of buying new
clothes for himself, son and his wife, taking his son to school and buying a rifle.

 

However, in spite of all the optimism, certain envy begins to grow among the neighbours, and, this envy
builds in Kino fear and rage to protect his hard earned wealth.

 

Greed/Ignorance/ Illiteracy/Deception

The change of heart in the doctor reveals a deep lust for Kino’s fortune. He would not have come if Kino
had not found the great pearl. Also, his questions suggest a motive to steal Kino’s pearl. He asks prying
questions (pg56) while observing Kino’s mannerisms to see where Kino could have hidden the pearl. It is
no surprise that someone tries to dig at the very spot while Kino and family are asleep (pg59).

 

Kino’s people have little knowledge. Due to their ignorance, the people of stone houses dupe them all
the time. Although Coyotito’s condition had improved greatly, the doctor uses his expertise to induce
fever in the boy to manipulate Kino into paying him. Kino feels deceived by even the priest and that is
why he dreams of taking his son to school.

 

 

Styles and stylistic devices from the chapter

 

 

Simile: (pg41) “...like a colonial animal,” (pg43) “... like a scorpion or like hunger.... Or like loneliness...”
(pg44) “like a chorus of trumpets in his ears.” (pg46) “..afraid as a man is afraid who says, “I will’ without
knowing.” (pg47) “treated them like children.” (pg49) “like a windblown flag” “like the purring of kitten.’
(pg55) “He scattered the old women like chickens.” (pg59) “This pearl is like a sin.”


Personification: (pg41) “A town has a nervous system and a head....” (pg43) “The poison sacs of the
town began to manufacture venom...” “when the sun had gone over the mountains...”


Symbolism –(pg53) “ Out in the estuary a tight-woven school of small fishes glittered and broke water to
escape a school of great fishes.... And the little night hawks hunted them silently.” (pg60) “... and the
little waves beat on the rubbly beach with increased tempo.”


Premonition: (pg60) “It will destroy us all.” Juana cried. “Even our son.” This is telling us of the
unfortunate demise of Coyotito.

 


Chapter Four

 

Kino takes his pearl to the local dealers in town hoping to get a windfall. Just like when he took his son
to the doctor, Kino is followed by a crowd of spectators who want to witness this historic occasion. In
town, the dealers are ready to see the great pearl, but working for one man, the dealers offer pea nuts
for the pearls brought in by Kino’s people. On this occasion, they went too far by cutting down the price
that Kino refuses to part with his pearl. Kino feels cheated.

 

 

It is evident that Kino’s people have no idea on how pearls are being sold in other parts of the country.
They are at the mercy of the pearl buyers in their local town. Any attempts to venture outside La Paz
have never born any fruits. But Kino is determined to get a fair price. He plans to leave the town.

 

Later in the evening, Kino is attacked by unknown assailants who search him without finding the pearl.
Although there is fear allover, Kino is determined to see this through. He is determined to secure his
son’s future and that hope gives him the strength to fight the fear building up in him. His wife Juana on
the other hand is concerned more with her family’s security than the hope glistening in the pearl.

 

Observations from the chapter

Kino is so obsessed with the promise of wealth hidden in the pearl that he fails to see the immediate
danger lurking behind the darkness. Although Juana acts as a voice of reason, the unassailable hope in
Kino trumps reason and Juana has nothing to do but agree with her man for he is ‘a man.’

 

Questions from Chapter

 

Why do you think people followed Kino in large numbers when he went to sell the pearl?
Do you think it was fair for the buyers to present a united front in negotiations?
What made Kino refuse to accept the pearl buyer’s price?
Compare the incident when Kino took his child to the doctor and this one.

 


Themes from the Chapter

 

Opportunism
Like in the previous chapter, everyone who seem excited about Kino’s pearl are in it because of how it
will benefit them. At the church, believers eagerly waited for the pearl to be sold so that Kino can give
generously to God. The beggars to knew that they would get their share when the pearl has been sold.
(pg63)

 

When Kino fails to secure a better price from the buyers, he returns with the pearl to his house. In the
early hours of the night, Kino is roughed up by unknown assailant who disappears into the night. (pg78-
79)

 

Religion (Pg68)
Religion plays a central role in dictating the position of Kino’s people in the society. Although Kino has
found a pearl which will earn him a fortune and maybe, change his life, he still grapples with the
teaching of the priest. (pg68)

 

Beggars and people in the church are confident that Kino, after he sells his pearl, would pay tithe
handsomely to thank God for his find. This shows how deep religion has penetrated among the people
of La Paz. (pg63)

 

Monopoly

Kino’s people are at the mercy of pearl buyers. However, according to the chapter, there are no pearl
buyers but a pearl buyer who has employed all the buyers in La Paz. This has made it harder for people
of La Paz to get better offers from the pearls. (pg64)

 

When Kino presents his pearl, he hopes to get a better price for it. However, he is disappointed because
the offer goes up to 1500 pesos only. Although the people think that it is a perfectly good price, Kino
feels cheated.

 

Deception /collusion
The priest uses his sermons to brainwash his congregation to submit and live within their confines. Kino
says that the priest had preached to them severally to submit and be comfortable within their roles in
the society. (pg68)

 

On the other hand, the pearl buyers portend an appearance of different organisation yet they are only
working for one person. In order to keep the people of La Paz in check, they have an agreement to keep
the pearl prices as low as one can get in order to subject the people to suffering and abject poverty
hence ardent workers.

 

 

Styles from the Chapter

 

Personification – “Then every unit communicates to the whole.” (pg63) The style makes us see the
picture of peaceful co-existence of the people of La Paz before Kino good fortune. “The sun was hot
yellow that morning, and it drew the moisture from the estuary........ and hung it in shimmering
scarves...” (pg64) describes the day when Kino was to go and sell the pearl. “The houses belched
people, the doorways spewed out children.”( Pg67) “The coin winked into sight and as quickly
slipped....” (pg70) “... unwinking as a hawk’s eyes,”


Idiom- “threw caution to the wind.” (Pg65) “...fool’s gold.” (pg72) “...cut of his own head...”


Simile – (pg66)“....like a rash, unmarried, irresponsible man,...” (pg68) “... is like a soldier sent by God to
guard some part..”


Dialogue – Between Kino and his brother Juan Tomas (pg67-68)(pg77) between Juana and Kino (pg79-
80)


Metaphor – “...the circling of wolves, the hover of vultures..” (pg73)

 


Chapter five

 

While Kino is asleep, Juana wakes up stealthily, retrieves the pearl and tries to dispose of the evil pearl
before it ruins her family. However, she is confronted by Kino who hits her hard in attempt to seize the
pearl before it is thrown into the sea.

 

After attacking his wife, Kino was along the shore to cool his anger when he is also confronted by
unknown assailants. In the ensuing struggle, Kino kills a man. But he is wounded. Juana comes to help
him. She picks up the pearl which Kino thinks has been taken and hands it back to her husband.

 

Since Kino had killed a man, they plan to escape before they are attacked by the people of the town.
Juana rushes to the house to get Coyotitto and some belongings while Kino goes to the boat.
Meanwhile, Kino’s house is put on fire and his boat broken. He has nowhere to go.

 

Nevertheless, Juan Tomas offers Kino refuge as the day breaks in order that he could hide from the
people looking for him. When the evening comes, Kino and his wife live La Paz on the journey to go
north and sell the pearl.

 

 

Questions from the Chapter

Why do you think Juana tries to throw the pearl away?


Explain how Kino has changed in a span of two days; from a pearl fisherman who loved his wife to a
vicious killer. Explain why you think this sudden change occurs in Kino.


Why do you think Juana at least decides to keep the pearl even when she has a chance to throw it away
without Kino noticing?


“Do you remember yesterday?” Juana asked. “Do you think that will matter will matter? Do you
remember the men of the city? Do you think your explanation will help?” (pg86) Why do you think Juana
asked this questions?


Why do you think the writer says on page 86 “And his will was hardened and he was a man again?”
Explain the implication of this statement: “This pearl has become my soul,” Kino said. “If I give it up I
shall lose my soul.”


Observations from the chapter

Having lived his entire life in poverty, Kino is ready to hold onto the pearl with his dear life as the final
hope. He will do anything including spanking his wife and kill a man to at least get a glimpse of what
good fortune had placed on his table. He even forgets that the only reason he had hoped for the pearl in

the beginning was to get money to take Coyotitto to the hospital. The pearl seems to have blinded Kino
and estranged him from his community.

 

 

Themes from the chapter

 

Obsession

Kino is so obsessed with the pearl that he almost kills his wife. Having decided that the pearl was his last
straw to his freedom, Kino defends the pearl with his dear life. He kills a man, watches as his home is
burnt down and sees his peaceful life thrown in shambles but he cannot give up the pearl. Like he tells
his brother, the pearl had become his soul. (pg92)

 

Insecurity and Greed

Kino’s people do not enjoy any sense of security. When he gets the pearl, he attracts all manner of
assailants. In this chapter, he is attacked by several assailants who try to grab the pearl from him. He
fights them off and kills one of the men. Even though he was fighting for his life, Kino has to run away
from La Paz to escape what might come of him.

 

Violence

Kino seems to have been possessed by some evil force that is driving his survival instincts. His decision is
try to his own capacity to salvage his final hope and at least get something from the pearl. He is very
much engrossed in protecting the pearl that he brutally beats his wife Juana when she tries to throw the
pearl back to the sea. (pg83)

Besides beating Juana, Kino fights assailants while angrily walking away from Juana. Using his knife, he
kills one of the attackers. This changes everything in Kino’s life for he had now killed a man. His life and
relationship with his people would change. (pg84)

 

Masculinity

After Juana is beaten by Kino, she does not get mad at him, she understands her man. Kino had told her

that he was a man, and according to Juana, this meant that Kino would do anything to prove his
masculinity. “Kino would drive his strength against a mountain and plunge his strength against the sea.”
(pg84) This would be just to prove that he was a man even if it meant drowning in the sea or hitting
unmoving mountain.

 

 

Styles from the chapter

 

 

Simile: (pg83) “...like a shadow she glided towards the door.” “He hissed at her like a snake...”
“..followed her as silently as she had gone...” (pg84)“...like sheep before the butcher.” “..stirred like
those of a crushed bug,...” (pg86) “...as she would quiet a sick child.” (pg89) “...as quickly as a twig fire
dies.” (pg90) “I know I am like leprosy.”


Personification: (pg84) “And the rage left him...” “...frantic fingers searched him.....the pearl........lay
winking behind a little stone in the pathway.” (pg87) “Now the darkness was closing in on his family...”
“...for a boat does not have sons..” (pg88) “...tall flame licked in the dark with a crackling..”
Description: (pg85) The author vividly captures how Juana walked on the beach in the moonlight. (pg87-
88) The last paragraph captures the events in the brush houses. (pg89) The image of Juan Thomas
house.

 


Chapter six

Kino embarks on the journey northwards in order to find a better price for his pearl. He is accompanied
with Juana and his infant son Coyotito. Although Kino covers his tracks carefully, he is quickly followed
by three trackers who trace his journey into a forest and a rocky hill.

Kino manages to kill all the trackers but in the process a stray bullet kills Coyotito. Now Kino has nothing
to do because all his hopes and dreams die with his son. Empowered and armed with a gun he salvaged
from the dead trackers, Kino and Juana return back to La Paz. Their first mission is to throw the pearl
back to the sea where it belonged.

 

 

Observation from the chapter

Kino seems determined to change his life and his hope lies in the pearl. The pearl gives him energy that
kills three assailants. However, he realizes too late that his fight was bringing more harm than the
anticipated good. He gives up on his quest, and returns the distasteful pearl to the see.

 

 

Themes from the chapter

 

Resignation/defeat

Kino’s hope for a better life for his family dies with the death of Coyotito. Instead of pursuing his dream
for a better life, he comes home and throws the pearl back into the ocean. He had given up on chasing
the dream- a dream that was bringing more harm than good.

 

 

Styles from the chapter

 

Personification: (pg95) “...the wind blew fierce and strong, it pelted them with bits of sticks....” “...the
stars were cold in a black sky.” “The wind cried and whisked in the brush,...” (pg103) “The singing heat
lay over this desert country, and ahead the stone mountains looked cool and welcoming.”

 

Description: (pg96) “The coyotes cried and laughed in the brush, and the owls screeched...” (pg97) “He
watched the ants moving, a little column of them near his to foot, and he put his foot in their path...”
(pg98) “When Coyotito awakened she placed him him on the ground in front of her and watched him
wave...” (pg101) the passing trackers.

 

Simile: (pg98) “But she sat still as a sentinel...” (pg100) “They were as sensitive as hounds.” “Kino lay as
rigid as the tree limb.” “They scuttled over the ground like animals...” “...whined a little, like excited
dogs on a warming trail.” (pg103) “...as nearly all animals do when they are pursued.”

 

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