Friday, April 10, 2015

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

So like Anthem, I chose to read The Pearl by John Steinbeck because it was a novella and I thought it would be a simple book to teach word choice, diction and style. Of Mice and Men is a staple in English curriculum in Maryland and I figured that The Pearl would be on the same level as Of Mice and Men. I also chose it because of its indigenous Latin American people and I thought it would relate nicely to Spanish that 9th graders are taking this year.

The book is about a man, named Kino and his family. They live on meager substance and Kino, like his father before him, is a pearl diver. The dark skinned people are kept poor and uneducated, a fact that is personified when Kino finds the most perfect pearl when he goes fishing. The pearl incites much attention from the village, and Kino dreams of a good life for his family and for his son. However, the white people in the area are hell bent on abusing Kino's naivety and aim to take the Pearl from Kino every chance they get. 

There is one catch, however, the pearl has made Kino very greedy, untrustworthy and impulsive. He knows what the white people, like the doctor and the merchants are trying to do, and he goes to great lengths to make sure that the pearl yields good results for him and his family. Which is noble, but it all goes horribly wrong. 

To put it bluntly, the book is kind of boring. The story itself is not boring, but Steinbeck writes in a very straight forward manner, which doesn't lend itself to much imagination. The Pearl is a fable and for me at least, I would like my fables to be full of colorful language and interesting prose. Steinbeck describes the songs that Kino's people sing and refer too, but there was nothing about the songs that stood out. I couldn't even tell you what they sounded like. I know Steinbeck actively chose to write this way due to the nature of how Kino's people interacted with each other (I think the same sort of straightforwardness) but... I didn't enjoy it. 

Good lessons but bad set up. 

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