The title John Steinbeck gave to his novel, The Pearl, is significant to the meaning of the work. When you think of a pearl or any other kind of precious stone you think of the wealth and prosperity it could bring and the happiness that would follow. The title in itself is ironic because considering that a pearl is of great wealth, you would assume that it would also give great happiness. But, in this story that is not the case. Kino and his wife, Juana, was a poverty-stricken family until they found the great pearl. They had high hopes for their future and the future of their son. They could make their dreams come true and find a door out of their hard life. Their lives were changed because of the pearl, and in the end they found that the happiness they had before, was an even greater wealth than what they wished to have.
The Pearl, from the beginning of the novel, is very fast paced. The scenes in the story, though short and simple, contain many facts and details that are important to the story. Due to the fact that there are not that many characters that have to be introduced in the first chapter as in other long novels which take a whole chapter to introduce characters, the introductions only take about three to four pages. Also, in the first chapter, the background is set: a poverty stricken village on the shore of an island and a wealthier town in the mainland. The conflict, which starts the plot of the story, is also present here: a scorpion has stung Coyotito, Kinos son, and Kino need to find a pearl to pay the doctor to help them. This leads to the discovery of the great pearl.
The story starts on a beach where a poor village lies. Kino and his Family are living happily together and living just fine. Even though they dont have everything in the world that they need or want, they remain happy. Through the progress of the story they gain hope and a way to get out of the poor life they are living. Also, though not knowing it, the doctor, that Kino and Juana went too see, had already sentenced their son to death; if he had helped them earlier, they would not have looked to the ocean and been led down the road to hardships. Kino and Juana think that wealth is the answer to all their problems. When they give up the pearl that they thought would help them, they returned to their ordinary lives except without the happiness they once had.
Kino, Juana, and Coyotito live satisfied with their lives in the poverty of their village. They dont have the riches they need to get proper care for their son or anyone else, but they at least have each other. When they want to give this life for a better one, they have a price to pay. In the end they find that the life they strive for comes with a very big price which the pearl could not pay and they could not return to their previous way of life lacking the togetherness and happiness they once had.
The World of the Work:
The class of the characters in this work is not varying as in a lower, middle or upper class. In this novel there are only two classes: the lower and the upper. There is no real middle class or does not need to be presented in this story. The ideals and views that Steinbeck wants us to see are the major differences between the lower and upper classes of society. The class of the main character of The Pearl, Kino, is of the lower class side. He shares this class with his wife, Juana, his son, Coyotito, the rest of his poor village, and the peasants that populate the town. The other class is that of the rich. The doctor whom Kino wishes to see belongs to this class.
In the beginning, the values of Kino and Juana are very much alike. They share the same morals; they feel the same when it comes to the power of a woman. In their culture, women still dont have power to do what they want or speak their ideas. It is a common ideal for them for women to be obedient servants to their husbands. Kino and Juana also share the value of family. They are humble and would probably do anything to stay together. Unlike today, family will always come first for them.
Throughout the novel, the major theme is of greed. The pearl caused peoples lives to change and caused pain. The power of greed is so strong that it could manifest and destroy lives. The power of greed is strong in this book and exists in the pearl and the hearts of other men and women. Greed causes the mind to over work, as it has done to Kinos. Whenever he went to sleep at night, Kino would hear noises and fear that the pearl would be stolen. The pearl caused him to become paranoid of even his closest neighbors. Greed in itself is present in every persons soul. It is stipulated that it is the human nature to want more than what we have, and when we get it, we are still not satisfied. Greed can also cause people to do things to get whatever they want, and in the end, greed was the undoing of Kinos family.
Kino is obviously the main character of The Pearl. He starts as a very poor, humble man, but through time, goes through many changes in the story and is also hurt deeper than a weapon could pierce. Kino becomes a desperate man once the scorpion had stung his son. Hoping to pay for treatment to save his him, Kino went in search for pearls in the ocean, which was a daily hobby, but wasnt needed until now.
When he discovers the great pearl, he realized his life could be changed and at that moment, it did. His wife Juana knew that the pearl would bring trouble after the first attempt of theft, but Kino would not listen. Through the progression of the story, Kino wishes to rid himself of the cursed pearl and realizes that his wife was right.
The characters can be divided into two main groups: realistic and unrealistic. Today the values of people have changed. The kindness and humbleness of Kino and Juana would be unrealistic in a world like today. If an ordinary man had found a pearl like Kinos today, he would have traded it in for money in the hour he found it because anyone would steal it if they had the chance. The most realistic person in the story is the greedy doctor. He wouldnt do anything unless he had proper payment for his “treatments”. Though Kino and Juana are unrealistic characters, they have a purpose in the story. Steinbeck wanted characters that would fit his descriptions: poor, humble, satisfied, happy. It is very rare to find a person who could match these descriptions today; everyone wants more, more, more; so he chose to make them unrealistic. The more realistic characters of the story also have a purpose: to be antagonists. Just like Kino, he wanted them to fit his descriptions.
The Pearl has a very intriguing story line. The story grabs me in the first few pages when the scorpion stings Coyotito. Being not very complicated, the structure of the plot only has one true climax. In the beginning of the story characters are properly introduced and the plot has already been set. Kino sets out to sea to find the pearl, which is needed, for the payment of Coyotitos treatment. The events after the discovery of the pearl build up to the climactic scene where Kino is about to kill the mercenaries that were following them at the end of the story. (WHY)
In The Pearl Kino tells us of his suffering and loss he has gone through due to the pearl. Kinos point of view shows us the poverty stricken, but happy life of a native man. He starts the story with nothing but the love of their family and ends it with less than what he had. Steinbeck shows Kinos side of the story because there is more intrigue in it. If the story were to be told by a rich or middle class person, they would still have something left to come back to after they wouldve given up the pearl. There is more interest in readers who find that characters go through more suffering because they imagine themselves in their place. Every so often someone wants to lose touch with reality and become absorbed into a book like The Pearl. The near death experiences and loss of love attracts readers like me to books. If Steinbeck wrote the story in the point of view of a middle class person, it wouldnt be much of a life changing situation if a semi-rich person were to become rich, than as it would be it a very poor person were to become suddenly rich.
Throughout the story it feels that I have become attached to the characters, Kino and Juana, because of all the suffering they have been through. I feel pity for them when they lose their son to the power of greed. The most memorable event that occurred in the story is when Kino flung the pearl into the ocean. I could picture him look disgustingly into the shine of the pearl and along with the pearl went the problems that came with it.
Inanimate Objects / Symbols / Illusions:
The most significant object in this story is the pearl. It has brought upon the pain, suffering, hopes, shattered dreams, and other misfortunes it wasnt thought to bring. The pearl was the key to a new life for Kino and his family, but instead of granting their wishes it made their worst fears come true. The evil song of the pearl has pierced through the soft tones of the song of the family.
The Pearl is a story that tells of a very poor family: Kino, Juana, and Coyotito. When the scorpion stung Coyotito, he thought that the pearl would be the answer to all his problems and bring them nothing but their dreams. In the end, though too late, he finally made a wise decision to rid himself of the pearl along with the troubles that it brought. In The Pearl, Steinbeck expresses the fact that man’s manifestation for wealth and property leads to the self-destruction of man, both mentally, and physically.