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Study Help Essay Questions
1. Discuss the various animal imagery that functions throughout the novel: the ants, the scorpion, the hissing snakes, the schools of fish, the oysters, the dogs, and the pearl buyers as octopuses, etc.
2. Describe in detail Kino and Juana's simple life before and after the discovery of the pearl.
3. How does Steinbeck characterize the doctor? How does he let the reader know that the white powder which the doctor administers to Coyotito is actually a poison which would kill the baby if the doctor did not return?
4. How does the priest function as a travesty of religion?
5. Why are the pearl buyers referred to as "fatherly" and "benevolent"? How does this contradict their real purposes? Are they also victimized?
6. Why are the "dark ones" and the trackers never identified? What is gained by Steinbeck's not identifying them?
7. A symbol can change its meaning during the course of a novel. How does the pearl change its meaning during the course of this novel?
8. Kino believes that it would be better to kill a person than to kill a canoe because a canoe has no relatives to revenge it. What types of values are operative in such a statement?
9. Kino and Juana function more or less on a primitive level in their lives and in their religion, yet they both want a church wedding and a christening for Coyotito. How are these values consistent with their lives? How are they contradictory?
10. What is the function of the many songs that Kino hears during the course of the novel?
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The Pearl takes place in a small village on the outskirts of La Paz, California. It begins in the brush house of Kino , Juana , and their baby, Coyotito , a family of Mexican Native Americans. In the midst of Kino and Juana’s morning routine, Coyotito is stung by a scorpion that has fallen into his hanging box.
Aware of how poisonous the scorpion’s sting is, Juana orders that the doctor be gotten and when the doctor refuses to come to them, insists they go to the doctor themselves. Kino, Juana, Coyotito, and their neighbors proceed together to the city. When the servant reports their arrival at his gate, the doctor, lounging indulgently in bed, is insulted by the mere notion that he would “cure insect bites for ‘little Indians’” without compensation. The servant informs Kino that the doctor will not be able to see them and Kino punches the gate, infuriated by the doctor’s evident discrimination.
Kino and Juana set off in their canoe to search for pearls. Kino dives down to the seafloor and finds one oyster lying alone, gleaming from within. Upon returning to the canoe, Kino opens this oyster last and finds within it the most perfect pearl in the world.
News of Kino’s pearl spreads rapidly through the town, inspiring desire and envy in everyone who hears of it. When Juan Tomas asks Kino what he will do as a rich man, he responds that he and Juana will be married in a church, that they will have new clothes, that he will have a rifle, and that his son will receive an education.
The priest visits the brush house to remind Kino and Juana to thank God. Then the doctor, inspired by the news of the pearl, arrives in order to treat the baby. He administers a first treatment and predicts that the poison will strike within the hour. Within the hour, Coyotito indeed becomes ill and the doctor administers a second treatment to cure him. Kino promises to pay the doctor after selling the pearl, which the doctor feigns not to have heard about.
That night, after dark, Kino hears noises in the house and manages to strike a thief looking for the pearl with his knife, but is also struck in return. Juana begs, to no avail, that they get rid of the pearl.
The next day, Kino and Juana, followed by their neighbors, go to visit the pearl dealers . The first dealer Kino visits assesses the pearl at a mere 1000 pesos, declaring it too big and clumsy to be worth anything more, though it is clearly more valuable than he lets on. Kino accuses the dealer of cheating him, so the dealer instructs Kino to ask around for other appraisals, which are even worse than the first. Kino concludes that he’s been cheated and decides to go to the capital for a better estimate.
That night, Kino fights off another attacker. Juana tries to throw the pearl into the ocean, but Kino follows her, rips the pearl away from her, and beats her to the ground. Some minutes later, Juana rises to discover that Kino has been attacked yet again, and, this time, has killed his attacker. Now that Kino is guilty of murder, Kino and Juana truly must leave the town.
As Kino approaches the canoe to prepare for their departure, he sees that someone has made a hole in its bottom. Then, upon seeing that their house is engulfed in flames, the family seeks refuge in Juan Tomas’s house. They flee north at nighttime, pursued by trackers who have followed them from the village.
The family retreats into a cave on a mountainside, under which the trackers come to rest at night. When it’s completely dark, Kino prepares to attack them but, as he is about to, Coyotito lets out a cry, provoking one of the trackers to shoot at what he assumes to be a coyote. Though Kino succeeds in killing the men, Coyotito has already been shot dead.
Juana and Kino, united and beleaguered, walk back to the village side-by-side with Coyotito’s dead body in Juana’s shawl. Kino throws the pearl back into the sea.
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Introduction & Overview of The Pearl
The Pearl Summary & Study Guide Description
Whether by prayer, quest, or lottery ticket, humans have long expressed their dreams of a better life. Many are the tales about this phenomenon and, more often than not, the tales end in tragedy for the pleasure seeker. This longing for something better is the theme of John Steinbeck's 1947 The Pearl .
Steinbeck was disillusioned in the aftermath of World War II. He realized that none of his heroes— the GI, the vagrant, or the scientific visionary— could negotiate survival in a civilization that created the atomic bomb. Repentance, as attempted by his characters in his novel The Wayward Bus (1947), was not enough. Fittingly, he reflected his disillusionment through a legend about a man who finds the Pearl of the World and is eventually destroyed by greed.
The legend tells of an Indian pearl diver who cannot afford a doctor for his son's scorpion sting. In this anxious state, he finds the Pearl of the World and is able to get medical help for his boy Calculating the profit from the gem, the diver dreams of a better life—a grand wedding, clothes, guns, and an education for the boy. But his dream of leaving his socio-economic station leads to ruin. As he attempts to escape those that want to take the pearl from him, he is tracked by professional hitmen and tragedy ensues. No pearl is worth the price Kino and his wife pay, so they throw the pearl back. Their story is a warning to restless dreamers yearning for an easy or magical solution to their problems.
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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — John Steinbeck — The Pearl Theme Analysis
The Pearl Theme Analysis
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Published: Nov 16, 2018
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Columbia University in the City of New York
Miriam and ira d. wallach art gallery.
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Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography
April 30–june 21, 2003.
Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography , an exhibition of 20th-century photographs of Moscow, opens at Columbia University's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 and remains on display through Saturday, June 21, 2003.
Moscow has been a powerful magnet for many Russian photographers of the 20th century. Moscow: City, Spectacle, Capital of Photography presents the work of 31 photographers, whose images have defined the visual experience of Moscow from the 1920s to the present. Diverse in form and strategy, the 90 photographs chosen for the exhibition trace the history of Russian documentary photography and offer insight into individual practices. From Aleksandr Rodchenko's constructivist visions and Evgenii Khaldei's humanist landscapes to Igor Moukhin's scenes of urban spectacle and alienation in the works of Russia's key 20th-century photographers, Moscow ventures beyond the expected image as a site of famous landmarks, architectural treasures and dramatic lifestyles.
Early 20th-century photographers Boris Ignatovich and Arkadii Shaikhet saw themselves in the vanguard of an emerging mass-media culture, defining with their cameras the visual experience of Soviet modernity. For nearly 70 years, Soviet photography was assigned the duty of maintaining the ideological rigidity of the Soviet State. Yet, as examples of the work of Iakov Khalip, Anatolii Egorov, Mikhail Savin, and Mark Markov-Grinberg show, Soviet photographic practices were much more complex than has been previously acknowledged. The works of these photographers remain intensely compelling to a modernist eye.
Contemporary Russian photographers, such as Lev Melikhov, Valerii Stigneev and Sergei Leontiev, engage with the legacy of the Soviet documentary photography. But for them the documentary is a complex and multivalent genre, which incorporates subjectivity, ambiguity and reflexivity and comments on social and cultural issues without losing sight of the position from which that commentary is made. In the recent photographs by Vladimir Kupriyanov, Igor Moukhin, Anna Gorunova and Pakito Infante, the "real" space of Moscow is replaced by an imaginary and optical spaces of virtuality.
The works in the exhibition are on loan from Moscow's Cultural Center Dom, and many are being shown outside Russia for the first time. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Wallach Art Gallery is publishing an illustrated catalogue with a scholarly essay by the exhibition curator, Nadia Michoustina, a Ph.D. candidate in Columbia University's Department of Slavic Languages. The essay presents a nuanced history of Russian photography of the 20th century, and contributes to an interpretation of extraordinary images.
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Setting Off Embroidery Fireworks
Lesage, a French specialty house now owned by Chanel, has been using sequins, beads and metallic threads to create explosions of color for decades.
By Vivian Morelli
Reporting from Paris
“Embroidery is to haute couture what fireworks are to Bastille Day.”
No one seems to know precisely when François Lesage said this, although the speculation at Maison Lesage is that it was sometime in the 1980s when embroidery was very much in vogue in haute couture collections.
Case in point: One embellishment created for a fall couture outfit comprised 30,000 transparent gold glass beads, 10,000 light-gold cuvettes (curved sequins), 1,000 black sequins and 5,169 roses in gemstones such as ruby and amethysts. “It’s an allover blouse,” said Hubert Barrère, Lesage’s artistic director, “embroidered with bouquets of blackberries, sequins and tubes covered with gold leaf and blackberries represented by plum, garnet and jet crystals.”
Much like the fireworks of Mr. Lesage’s quote — which appears in a book by the fashion writer Patrick Mauriès — the piece was exploding with color, shimmering and shining from all angles.
Throughout its nearly 100 years of history, Maison Lesage has collaborated with the world’s premier fashion houses, including Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel, which acquired Lesage in 2002.
Today, the company’s 70 artisans — along with the workers of 10 other specialty ateliers including the couture jewelry-maker Goossens and the feather and flowers business Lemarié — work at Le 19M, a two-year-old seven-level complex in the 19th Arrondissement, on Paris’s northern edge.
But the somewhat remote location does not mean Lesage is forgotten. In September, King Charles III of Britain came by with Queen Camilla during his state visit to France for a tour of the facilities that included trying their hands at different skills.
And every year Chanel stages a métiers d’art show in a different city — in 2022, it was Dakar, Senegal — to showcase the savoir-faire of its artisans. On Dec. 7, the catwalk is scheduled in Manchester, the northern English city that built its wealth in the 19th century on cotton and the textile industry.
“Lesage and all the maisons d’art are part of the future of fashion,” Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, wrote in an email, “and the contribution of each maison is key, not just at Chanel, but if you look at shows today, everyone wants to value the unique savoir-faire.”
This past summer I spent an afternoon in Lesage’s shimmering world, where sequins, beads, metallic threads and more come together with the skill of the petites mains (in English, tiny hands), as the skilled seamstresses of Parisian fashion houses are called.
At Lesage , the artisans are predominantly women from varied backgrounds. Some are graduates of École Lesage, the in-house embroidery school, although its training program, which can involve as much as 150 hours of instruction, is not a prerequisite for a job. One worker now on staff, for example, formerly taught history and geography.
“The most difficult part is to make,” Mr. Barrère said. “We’re talking about humans, not machines.”
Mr. Barrère said it takes at least 100 hours to make an embroidery for a simple ready-to-wear garment. “In haute couture, it’s 600, 800, 1,000 or 2,000 hours of work, it depends,” he continued. “Each time you multiply it with the price per hour and it becomes very, very expensive.”
The creative process at Lesage is both collaborative and intensely personal. Here is how it works:
Conveying a Theme
Fashion collections usually have themes, and Lesage artisans work with designers and their teams to turn those themes into embroidery.
“Each project is unique,” Mr. Barrère said — and to explain it, he described the work behind the Chanel Cruise collection , designed by Virginie Viard, Chanel’s creative director, and presented in May on the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles.
Just one month before the show, Ms. Viard said “she would like something with movement, something free and also cinematic, something glamorous” from Lesage, Mr. Barrère said. “The movement — it’s very simple when you see what’s going on at Rodeo Drive, with all the guys and girls rollerblading and people in shorts. It’s not Chanel at all, but we’re going to make it Chanel.
“And it’s hot in Los Angeles, there’s palm trees, ice cream, pastel colors.”
As a result, the collection featured a lot of color. “Color gradients were the new black at Chanel that season, like sunsets,” he said. “And we came up with embroideries with flowers, palm trees, ice cream, disco balls. And fireworks in gold sequins on a dress.”
Ideas such as those are then sewn as samples, about 10 to 15 centimeters in height (four inches to six inches), and shown to the designer.
“It goes fast, very fast,” Mr. Barrère said. “Every month and a half, there’s a new collection, not counting special projects. And each collection requires about 50 to 100 new samples to get five or 10 models.” (We were walking into Lesage’s archive, a large room lined with thousands of small black drawers, each bearing a collection label indicating the season and year, going back as far as the 1920s. Like “the Swiss bank,” he said humorously.)
Prick and Pounce
Once the designer has chosen a sample, it goes through a pattern-making process that ends with a version on tracing paper.
In the atelier’s drawing room, Gaëlle — a designer Lesage would identify only by her first name, a common practice in many French luxury businesses — demonstrated the next step, using blue and red pencil to identify which areas should be sewn in which colors. Once she finished drawing, she used a hand-held machine called a stitcher to punch tiny holes in the tracing paper. The frequency and spacing of the holes indicate where the embroiderers should sew.
After some preparations, she laid the tracing paper on the fabric. Using a poncette, a small spongelike tool made from felt remnants from another Le 19M resident, the French hat-maker Maison Michel , she rubbed powder (white, black or gray, depending on the color of the fabric) through the holes and onto the fabric. The design then was fixed with an alcohol spray.
To make a pattern come to life, embroiderers use a wide range of threads and materials as well as sewing techniques.
Léa, an embroidery apprentice, demonstrated the Lunéville stitch. Named for the town in northeastern France where it originated, the stitch is done exclusively on the reverse side of the fabric, using a tool with a fishhook-like device at one end that is called a Lunéville crochet. Once finished, she flipped the fabric over, and a colorful floral motif appeared.
(Lesage also uses another technique called needlepoint embroidery, a manual process in which stitch after stitch of thread, pearl or sequin embellishment is applied to the fabric.)
Léa was working on an embroidery for Chanel’s fall 2023 couture collection, shown alongside the Seine in July . The piece eventually would require 5,170 chalk and ivory glass beads, 29,500 sequins in colors such as porcelain red, light yellow, ocher, light gray, sea green and metallic black, as well as 1,995 pierced red crystal chips.
Lesage also has a textile design workshop for tweed. It was set up in 1996 to work on Chanel’s ready-to-wear collections (Coco Chanel famously used the men’s wear fabric for her women’s designs), but since 2008 Lesage has been designing tweeds for numerous brands and private customers.
In the workshop, a pastel tweed with tie-dyed silk ribbons was displayed, just one of Chanel’s Cruise collection fabrics from the Los Angeles show. And Louise, a textile designer, was working on a highly textured tweed made of lace that was being woven with shades of mauve, violet, black and brown and embellished with hints of navy, silver and green, for the Chanel fall couture show.
One Hundred Years
Lesage was established in 1924, when Albert and Marie-Louise Lesage, embroidery specialists who worked with designers such as Madeleine Vionnet, bought out a Parisian workshop called Michonet.
When Albert Lesage died in 1949, their son François, who was living in California and creating embroideries for Hollywood films, returned to France to help his mother with the business. By the early 1960s, he had formed a creative relationship with Yves Saint Laurent and, by the mid-1980s, Karl Lagerfeld was designing for Chanel and he wanted to use the house’s services, too.
Chanel, aware by 1985 that French specialty houses were struggling, bought the button and jewelry maker Desrues . And then in 1997, it created Paraffection, a subsidiary to preserve and promote the houses under its ownership; in 2002, Lesage was added to the group.
“Chanel was a visionary before anyone else, they understood that French luxury depended on creativity but also savoir-faire,” Mr. Barrère said. “And that these artisans’ houses were very fragile and needed to be bought out to prevent the skills from being lost, not to turn them into museum showcases.”
(In 1993 Lesage Intérieurs, part of the Lesage company, was established to make large hand-embroidered pieces such as wall panels for architects, museums and decorators. The work is done at the Vastrakala workshop in Chennai, India, founded by François’s son, Jean-François, the business’s artistic director, and his Indian associates.)
Drawing and Design
As a young adult, Mr. Barrère studied law, but his real passion was drawing. So he moved to Paris from Brittany and studied fashion at École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, now known as Institut Français de la Mode.
“I dreamed of being Yves Saint Laurent,” he said. “But in the end, it wasn’t possible because I didn’t have any money and I ended up working for an embroiderer who paid me to learn embroidery design,” referring to Guy Vermont. (In 2012, Dior bought the Vermont atelier.)
In 1995, Mr. Barrère set up his own design company, making corsets and embroidery and working with designers such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney. (He created the corset for Madonna’s wedding dress in 2000.) He also was artistic director of the Parisian embroidery atelier Hurel from 1997 to 2011, during which time he worked with Chanel.
In 2011, “the president of Chanel asked me to succeed François Lesage, who was very unwell,” Mr. Barrère said. “Unfortunately, he died the day I arrived.”
Mr. Barrère also works on outside projects, such as a recent collaboration with the Opéra Comique in Paris on sets and costumes for “Zemire et Azor,” a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
Of the hundreds of projects he has worked on at Lesage, Mr. Barrère remembers some as particularly challenging.
“We made Chanel suits in 3-D printers,” he said, for the fall 2015 couture show, based on a suit worn by the model and designer Inès de la Fressange in the ’80s and ’90s, all black with sequins and a quilted finish.
A canvas was created then scanned, and computer engineers reconstructed the suit. “We made embroideries that imagined the quilted pattern,” he said, displaying a sample that, when stretched, popped up into three-dimensional cubic shapes.
Lesage also has a project that is close to his heart: transmitting its savoir-faire to the younger generation. The company regularly offers workshops for teenagers, often for students from the atelier’s working-class neighborhood.
“If you discover them, our trades are deeply moving,” Mr. Barrère said. “And in our increasingly fast-paced world, with its virtual gizmos, it’s an interlude of humanity. And that is reassuring.”
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