El Fomentador

Alive and well in Mexico…

Archive for May 2008

“The Pearl” by John Steinbeck

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Hi. Welcome to the first installment of the Book Nook. (Ok, I know the “Book Nook” is kind of a lame name–hey! that rhymes too–I just wanted someplace to write about books. I am willing to change it if somone comes up with a better name.) I just finished re-reading “The Pearl”, a short novel or a long short-story by John Steinbeck. Of course, Steinbeck is known as a great American author. One of my favorite books is his novel about the westward migration of Americans from the mid-west dust bowl of the 1930’s to California, “The Grapes of Wrath”. The Grapes of Wrath will be a future topic in the Book Nook. I recently saw the movie version dubbed into Spanish and it was just as moving and inspiring as any of the dozen times I’ve watched it in English; maybe even more so, as I recognized parallels between the “Okies” and the current wave of Mexican immigrants. More on that later, now on to “The Pearl”. //www.gemdiamond.com/department/images/home/Pearls.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

I’m tempted to do a book report type post, but I am just going to use a few excerpts from the story to look at some enduring concepts that Steinbeck translates into wonderfully meaningful prose. The premise of the story is that “Kino”, a poor pearl diver finds a valuable pearl one day. The story follows the trail of events precipitated by his discovery of the pearl and the changes that occur in him, his family and his village because of it.

In the following passage the villagers are crowding around the door of Kino’s brush hut wondering what he will do with his sudden good fortune. Coyotito is the infant son of Kino and his wife Juana. “In the pearl he saw Coyotito sitting at a little desk in a school, just as Kino had once seen through an open door. And Coyotito was dressed in a jacket, and he had on a white collar and a broad silken tie. Moreover Coyotito was writing on a big piece of paper. Kino looked at his neighbors fiercely. ‘My son will go to school,’ he said, and the neighbors were hushed. Juana caught her breath sharply. Her eyes were bright as she watched him, and she looked quickly down at Coyotito in her arms to see whether this might be possible.

“But Kino’s face shown with prophecy. ‘My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will know numbers, and these things will make us free–he will know and through him we will know.’ And in the pearl Kino saw himself and Juana squatting by the little fire in the brush hut while Coyotito read from a great book. ‘This is what the pearl will do,’ said Kino. And he had never said so many words together in his life. And suddenly he was afraid of his talking. His hand closed down over the pearl and cut the light away from it. Kino was afraid as a man is afraid who says ‘I will,’ without knowing.”
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The “BUM”ingham School of English

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This outfit has all of the markings of the classic franchise patito. Stuck into an, otherwise empty, ugly concrete and plate glass, two-story office building off a busy, cluttered street on the edge of one of the growing manufacturing cities along the industrial corridor of the Mexican Bajio it is the epitome of the penchant of the patitos for merging incompetent English instruction with shamelessly predatory business practices.https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Rubber_duckies_So_many_ducks.jpg

So, of course, I went there to talk to them about working. I should add that this was nearly two years ago when I was still, as a German friend here says, an “innocent American.” At the time all I really wanted was access to an office and a classroom. I wanted to teach advanced courses in writing and speaking in English. “BUM”ingham already has it’s own “system”. The material (supplied by the franchise seller) is incredibly poor, even by the low standards of the “edu-business”. Of course, all new, bad material is required at each new “level” and is outrageously over-priced.

The “principal” offered me a job that morning, at $30 pesos an hour, (less than three dollars). I guess I couldn’t help but chuckle, and he said, right away, ok, $50 pesos per hour (less than five dollars). I started to say, well, that’s not really what I want to do…and he interrupted me to say, “It’s not much money, but you don’t have to do anything. I asked what he meant and he said the students just write in their workbooks (mostly those inane fill-in-the-blank exercises; I’ll be honest, I have trouble knowing what answer they want sometimes!) and the teacher is only there to answer questions (I’m assuming they would answer the questions in Spanish because, true-to-form, no one there spoke English, not the receptionist, not the owner, the principal (just barely), and certainly not the students.
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