Explain how the reader knows that Kino and Juana are poor in "Chapter 1" from The Pearl  by John Steinbeck.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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John Steinbeck's beautiful but sad legend of The Pearl takes places in La Paz.  The point of view is third person with an outside reliable narrator.

In the first two paragraphs of the story, Steinbeck introduces the major characters of the story: Kino, the oyster diver, his wife, Juana, and their baby, Coyotito.

The family is happy but extremely poor.  When the story begins, Kino is waking up in the early morning inside his hut on the beach.  Juana starts the fire in a fire pit which is where she has to cook the meals.  No stove...The hut that they live in has no door and the floor is dirt.

The baby has no crib or cradle. His bed is hung from ropes that extend from the ceiling.  This is to prevent any insects or scorpions from hurting the baby.  However, on this day, the scorpion will not be stopped.  Kino tries to catch the scorpion, but it falls on the baby and stings it. The baby could die.

They are poor Indian people.  The doctor thinks of them as animals. 

The doctor put his cup down gently before he let his anger rise.
'Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites for 'little Indians'? I am a doctor, not a veterinary.'

Kino is poor and has little money and a few seed pearls to pay the doctor, so the doctor takes his time in going to treat the baby.  When the doctor knows for sure that the family has no money,  he tells his servant to tell Kino and Juana that he had a more serious case and had to leave. 

The parents are left standing in front of the doctor's house.  They do not know what to do for the baby who is becoming sicker from the scorpion venom. In his anger toward the doctor, Kino hits the metal gate with his fist gashing open his knuckles. 

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