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An oral tradition is a story that has come down through a culture or people through spoken word. These stories are spoken rather than being written down. Because these oral traditions are passed down through the generations and committed to memory, they often change over time.
Steinbeck begins The Pearl by citing that his story is one that has been passed down through oral tradition.
"In the town they tell the story of the great pearl – how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife, Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story has been told so often, it has taken root in every man's mind...In any case, they say in the town that…"
His intent is that the story be read as if we're listening to another telling the story to us. Thus, we aren't simply readers..... we're also listeners.