An analysis of The Pearl by John Steinbeck
This essay is based on the critical analysis of the book by John Steinbeck named ‘The Pearl’. This is the story in which every event is linked to that of the other. The main characters of this story are Juana and Kino as they are crucial for the story plot. The whole story is based on the events that are major and these events creates hurdles that must be passed by both Juana and Kino (Jackson). These events are linked with the main theme of the story and how the protagonist is impacted by these events (French). Thus, this paper will analyze and examine the literary device such as characters, narrators, voice and setting of the story plot. At the start of the story, the author of the book, John Steinbeck presents us the introduction of the main characters (Juana, Kino and Coyotito) of the story in La Paz, which is a small town. From the start of the story, the author has created events that shaped the story and impacted on the characters. In the beginning of the story the main characters namely Juana and Kino experience their first obstacle (Jackson). Coyotito, who is the only child of Juana and Kino is stung by a Scorpion and in order to pay for the expenses of the treatment of the child, Kino sets out in search of a pearl. The story’s climax is when the main character of the story Kino, obtains the pearl miraculously and is overwhelmed that what this miraculous pearl can do for him (French). Thus, Kino is blinded from the gifts of the pearl and this leads to his son Coyotito being shot from the tracker’s bullet. As the story progresses and reach its conclusion, Kino realizes his mistakes and learns that how greed has blinded him. Here we can see the main resolution of the story that is Kino realizes that what greed has done to his family and himself (French). When Kino learns that the pearl is cursed, Kino throws it into the ocean. All this make him perceive that greed is a curse and there are more crucial things in life such as health, family and life itself.
Critical Analysis of the Novel
As we can see in the story, there are many events that are interlinked with each other. The first effect and its cause is when the only son of Kino and Juana is stung by Scorpion and he is taken to the doctor by Juana (French). As Kino and Juana are living a life in poverty and the doctor asks too much for the treatment of Coyotito, they are unable to pay. So, the doctor refuses Coyotito’s treatment as Juana and Kino cannot give the sum of fees to the doctor. This event leads to another event which is when Kino goes to search for the pearl of the world that can save the life of their son. In order for their son to be cured, Juana prays that they find the pearl so that their son can be treated (Jackson). This second event changes the life of Kino forever. The author have portrayed the example of ‘Kino’ as an ordinary man that is faced with the hazards of poverty and the daily issues faced by the poor. From the beginning till the finish, the novel shows how Kino is developed drastically (Jackson). At the start, we can see that the character of Kino is that of a loyal husband and a kind man. But as the story progresses, when Kino finds the pearl his character changes and he transforms into an ‘animal’ i.e. a man driven mad by freed and for money he can do anything (French).
Kino is an arrogant, but a strong-willed character as he beliefs in himself. It can be seen in the first event that when his son Coyotito is bitten by the Scorpion, how Kino goes to endless boundaries to search for the pearl. Eventually, his strong will help him find the pearl but this changes everything. When the pearl is found, a commotion that is great is made b the village of Kino but Kino doesn’t agree to the deal of the buyer. Instead, he becomes outraged and thinks that he is being cheated and swindled. Kino knew that the price of the pearl is way more than what the buyer has quoted. Because of his arrogance, Kino is attacked many times and this lead to his abode being burnt down (French). Kino is filled with greed and this clouds his decisions. In order to reach the place of fame and riches, Kino loses his only child. He faces many hurdles in this path but eventually fives up the aspiration of wealth. He realizes that this pearl has only given him sufferings and greed drives a person insane. He gives up the pearl and comprehends that family, life and health are more important than any other thing in the world. Another major character of this story is George. He is a quick witted, small and an intelligent person who is just similar to a father figure to watch over Lennie. Lennie is a lumbering child who is big and gets into a lot of problems due to the disability of mental capacities. Similar to Kino, Lennie and George also dream of living off from this world of poverty and ‘hit something big’ that can change their lives.
In the initial phase we can see that how content Kino is despite of the fact that he lacks material things. At this time, he cares nothing more but just his family and how to support them. But life is full of surprises and misfortunes (Jackson). Their life is changed when their only son is stung by the scorpion which leads Kino to a journey to obtain the ‘Pearl of the world’. There begins the journey of Kino and his transformation from a kind and loyal person to a greedy and arrogant fool. After through searching for many hours, Kino eventually finds a pearl that is spectacular. A pearl that can make all their dreams come true. Once finding the pearl, Kino at first decides to sell this pearl and pay of the fees of the doctor so that his son can be treated. But later he changes his mind and wonders that how much money he can get when he sell the pearl to the right bidder (Jackson). Thus, begins the path of greed for Kino and his suddenly runs for the material possessions. He dreams that his son will finally be able to go to school. His son will be educated and will be a different person, not like the other people of the village. He thinks that when he will be rich he can have a higher status and fame (Jackson). With his newly found wealth and fortune ‘The Pearl’, Kino jots down a list of things to do when he will obtain the wealth. One thing he list is that he will buy a rifle so that he can show the members of the village that he is the powerful one. When Kino is indulged in these thoughts he loses control of his true self. He becomes greedy and selfish and thus forgets about his family (Jackson).
When the pearl is taken by Kino to the right buyer, it a event that is great as almost every person in the village is curious to know how much the pearl will go for, how much Kino will benefit from the sale. When the bidding is done, Kino is offered by the buyer pesos one thousand. Kino becomes furious as he know that the pearl is worth way more than this meager quoted price (Jackson). He becomes outrageous and rejects the offer. This shows another example of greed from Kino. The main fact the author highlighted is that the classes of Society were very widely spread at that time. There was a huge gap between he upper class and the lower class. At that time, there was no concept of a middle class. People were either rich or poor and unlike today there existed no middle class. So, this story is also about the picturing of the image of the society at that time. Steinbeck has shared his point of view with the help of his literature and writings. This book ‘The Pearl’, is a story that is an eye opener for the society and the problem it is facing (Jackson). At that time people were not treated with justice and equally. There was a lot of social inequality and through his literary works, the author tries to convince the people to push into a world that is just and fair. The writer is an advocate for the reforms of society.
This story illustrates a deep moral sense and is a simple tale as how greed can change a person. The readers can get a glimpse of what society was at that time and can get the picture of the social reforms portrayed by the author. The present, past and the readers of the tale are able to bring this book alive with that of the morals. The author signifies that people have high hopes to change their lives and living standards (Jackson). He also showed that a person can turn evil when he becomes greedy and too much change is also bad. In the Pearl, we can see clearly that there are variety of roles in the society that are played by the people who are born into their role. The writer has made us feel the pain and sorrow that is felt by the Family of Kino when they are poor. But the writer also says that changing too much is not always the answer. With his story, the writer have shown the readers that what our world is actually like and has described the characteristics of human nature (Jackson). As we can see that at that time, there was no concept of equality. It wasn’t even appreciated to do justice. The status of the person was categorized by their wealth and riches. Today, we can see that people are given a fair chance to change their lives and there exists a concept of equality. But at that time, there was no such concept. The label the society prints on the person creates a big impact on their lives. As the story progresses and reach its conclusion, Kino realizes his mistakes and learns that how greed has blinded him. Here were can see the main resolution of the story that is Kino realizes that what greed has done to his family and himself (Jackson).
In short, ‘The Pearl’ is the story of the transformation of a good person into an evil one because of the vultures of greed and enviousness. John Steinbeck is a great author as he has won the noble prize in Literature as well. This parable and story is about the transformation of the life of a happy family into a miserable one (Jackson). The blame can be given to the society as social inequality leads to greed , enviousness and many other evils. Kino is a Mexican Indian who lives in the California Gulf in La Paz (Jackson). As our author, Steinbeck has a lot of love for the biology of the oceans, that is the reason we can see a lot of imagery in his writings that related to seas and oceans (Jackson). The Pearl of Kino is s symbol universally used to describe the things that were disastrous and happened in the life of Kino and his family. So, this story is a tragic ending as our hero ‘Kino’ is not able to achieve his dreams and ambitions. Instead his end is described terrible than the one before. In most of the stories of Steinbeck, we can see that the main character have dreams and ambitions which they want desperately. This story is about the character ;Kino; who had list his child and also his prized finding ‘the Pearl’ and all because of greed.
French, Warren. John Steinbeck’s fiction revisited. Twayne Publishers, 1994.
Jackson J. Benson (Ed.). (1990). The short novels of John Steinbeck: critical essays with a checklist to Steinbeck criticism. Duke University Press.