The Pearl by John Steinbeck

the pearlThe story centers on Kino, Juana, and their baby son Coyotito. Kino is a poor pearl diver, but he is leading a happy life with his wife, Juana, and his young son, Coyotitio. His family has very few possesions but they have each other. Juana is strong, loving, loyal, and goodhearted while Kino has a very good imagination. He likes to imagine music in his mind when his life events fold on in front of him. It reminds me of my own imagination. Quite the same as Kino, so I understand what is in his mind.

One day, baby Coyotito, Kino’s son gets stung by a scorpion (which made its way into his crib), making everyone panic. Immediately, the poisons begins to take hold, despite Juana’s frantic efforts to suck out the poision out of the baby. Bringing his little son to the doctor, Kino tries to beg the doctor to heal his son but is stuntly refused for no payment. Disheartened, Kino heads for his canoe and tries to go pearl diving to save his son. He is suceeded to bring up a gigantic pearl as big as  a ‘seagull’s egg’ and as perfect as the moon.

Almost immediately, things begin to change in Kino’s life, as if he has wealth beyond his wildest dream, but with a tag price. He dreams of having new clothes and a new rifle. He hopes that his son will attend school someday. Kino begins to watch people a little more closely, fearing they may try to steal his pearl.

The greed and pride overtake him, he is forced to decide between the pearl and his family. He venture into town to sell the pearl and collects his fortune, but never makes it there. He is forced to the reality that a pearl that big is worthless. Kino buries the pearl in their house, but someone sets his house on fire. Kino also finds out that someone has punched a hole in the bottom of his canoe. The pearl costs him everything.

The pearl symbolizes greed and devil. Because of the pearl, Kino selfishly puts his needs above those of his child and wife. The pearl is round, like the Earth, in which people try to regain a control. They fight over the pearl, they kill each other over the pearl. It’s just hard to imagine that the pearl is supposed to bring hope.

Here are some quotes that I like from the story. They are very good in showing about the evil of greed and how much Kino and Juana love one another.

“For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.”

“When Kino had finished, Juana came back to the fire and ate her breakfast. They had spoken once, but there is not need for speech if it is only a habit anyway. Kino sighed with satisfaction – and that was conversation.”

“Every man suddenly became related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino’s pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes, the plans, the futures, the wishes, the needs, the lusts, the hungers, of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man’s enemy. The news stirred up something infinitely black and evil in the town; the black distillate was like the scorpion, or like hunger in the smell of food, or like loneliness when love is withheld. The poison sacs of the town began to manufacture venom, and the town swelled and puffed with the pressure of it.”

The magic of Steinbeck is that not a word is wasted and every sentence is loaded with meaning. I found it very like Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea in its simplicity and it carries an important message. This is  my second John Steinback (for more information, you can read my first Steinback’s Tortilla Flat). I have enjoyed the richness, the quality, and the profound details of real human beings in Steinbeck’s novels. It proves Steinbeck’s understanding for culture and society and the human being within it. Both of his books have a simple “allegory” that can easily identify, e.g. the wealth versus the poor.

John Steinbeck was an American writer who was well known for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in the year 1962 for his, “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” I totally agree with that although the selection was heavily criticized and described as, ‘one of the Academy’s greatest mistakes’, on a Swedish Newspaper. The reaction of the American Literary Critics was also harsh, but I do not agree at all. Guess what, teenagers (like me) love Steinbeck. I felt that it was well worth my two hours of reading and was not a waste of time in anyway.


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