What price would one be willing to pay to achieve all of their wildest dreams? 1,000 pesos? 50,000 pesos? What about the respect of their community? Even worse, the life of their child. While Kino did not intend to lose any of these attributes in his quest for a better life, his stubbornness guided him to murder and ultimate heartbreak. It leaves the reader questioning, what price should be paid to attain the luxuries one wants from life? John Steinbeck’s novella, The Pearl, follows a poor Indian/Mexican pearl diver as the best find of his life slowly morphs into the greatest misfortune he had ever known.
Blinded by opportunity, Kino discovers too late that his treasure is a magnet for destruction. Through Kino’s adversity, the reader understands what Chaucer once conveyed, greed is the root of all evil. Moreover, it is made apparent that family is the greatest pearl of all . Set in La Paz, Mexico, Kino is content with his small family and house made of brush. However, when his only son Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, Kino sets out to find a pearl grand enough to pay the doctor who has refused to help. In an ancient clam, Kino stumbles upon the largest pearl anyone in La Paz had ever seen.
Dubbed “the Pearl of the World” everyone suddenly became interested in Kino and his family. When his brother, Juan Tomas, asks what the future holds, Kino sees images of Coyotito in school and a real marriage for Juana and himself reflected in the pearl’s surface. Even Coyotito’s wound seemed to be healing. However, joy and opportunity dragged paranoia and thievery along for the journey. Kino began to distrust everyone and everything. His new personality resembled an impenetrable shell through which no one could break, not even Juana.
At the pearl market, Kino was told that his prize was a monstrosity only worth 1,000 pesos. Knowing that he could get much more, Kino decided to make the trek to the capital for a fair bid to be made. Throughout the story, at least three attempts to steal the pearl were made. Juana knew the pearl was evil and begged Kino to get rid of it. He refused and assured her that with the pearl sold, the family will flourish. When Kino slashes the throat of a thief the family is forced to leave La Paz instantly.
Hunted by trackers and a rifle man, Juana and Kino hide in a cave to escape capture. When the search posse thinks they hear a coyote, the unthinkable takes place. Having lost everything, a defeated Kino returns to La Paz and sends his pearl back to the sea. Through this parable, one can learn two very important themes. One theme of the novella is greed is the root of all evil. Every terrible event that happened was caused by the greed of man. It started with the doctor refusing help to Coyotito based on Kino and Juana’s wealth, or lack thereof.
Giving Kino reason to discover the great pearl, which entranced pretty much everyone in town with its size, beauty, and price tag attached to a pearl of that size. Kino’s boat, house, and child were destroyed in order to protect the pearl and yet he insists on keeping it. Greed made Kino suspect everyone of intent to steal his prize. This may have been the reason he resorted to murder instead of just disabling his attacker. While taking to his brother, Juan Tomas, Kino says, “I might have given it as a gift, but now it is my misfortune and my life and I will keep it. The fact that Kino called the pearl his misfortune and his life in the same sentence shows how far he would be willing to go to achieve wealth. Moreover, fear that when they were caught, the pearl would be lost, partly prompted Kino to kill the search posse. Another theme that can be taken away from this story is that family is the greatest pearl of all. Without a doubt, Kino would have thrown the pearl back to the sea upon its discovery had he known that the price he would have to pay was Coyotito’s life. For example, Steinbeck writes, “He looked into its surface and it was gray and ulcerous.
Evil faces peered from it into his eyes, and he saw the light of burning. And in the surface of the pearl he saw the frantic eyes of the man in the pool. And in the surface of the pearl he saw Coyotito lying in the little cave with the top of his head shot away. And the pearl was ugly; it was gray, like a malignant growth . ” Also the pearl tore the family apart and led Kino to hurt Juana for trying to send the pearl back. These examples illustrate aptly why the themes “greed is the root of all evil” and “family is the greatest pearl of all” fit perfectly within this story.
It is no wonder why this book is considered a classic. With an original plot and setting, Steinbeck engages the reader from the first sentence. Unlike many authors, Steinbeck does not spend copious amounts of time describing each blade of grass on the valley floor. The most important scenes and people are explained thoroughly without quoting the entire dictionary. To describe Kino, Steinbeck wrote , “Kino was young and strong and his black hair hung over his brown forehead. His eyes were warm and fierce and bright and his mustache was thin and coarse . It is an admirable feat, to remain brief yet concise, and the very reason why interest is not lost even in the dull passages. The novella itself was gripping. The reader knows that a tragic event is going to take place from the very beginning, “And, as with all retold tales that are in people’s hearts, there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil things and no in-between anywhere . ” However, it is never made obvious what disaster is to come. Each scene of suspense was dripping with the unknown.
A shining example of this is just before Coyotito is stung by the scorpion, “ K ino stood perfectly still. He could hear Juana whispering the old magic again, and he could hear the evil music of the enemy. He could not move until the scorpion moved, and it felt for the source of the death that was coming to it. Kino’s hand went forward very slowly, very smoothly. The thorned tail jerked upright. And at that moment the laughing Coyotito shook the rope and the scorpion fell . ” What is going to happen next and what will become of each character is a humble mystery.
Though it is highly unlikely that those who read The Pearl are going to be Mexican/Indian pearl divers, the characters are surprisingly easy to relate to. One can understand why keeping the pearl would be advantageous to the family in the long run as Kino does. On the other hand, it is also apparent why destroying the pearl to protect the family is a feasible thought as Juana tried desperately to convey. In comparison to Of Mice and Men, this book is the lesser of two magnificent trophies; that being said, The Pearl is an apt showcase of Steinbeck’s exceptional style.
Albeit, at first it is difficult to determine what connection The Pearl has to everyday life . After spending time to consider the possibilities, one may concur that it is not uncommon at all to want a better life for oneself and their family. At the end of the day, all Kino wanted was a more substantial life for Juana and Coyotito. He wanted to send his only son to school so Coyotito could learn to read and write then pass his knowledge on to his parents who had not been as lucky in their youth. For example, when Kino is talking to the priest and is told that in the bible a character amed Kino in the bible tamed the desert. It is written, “Kino looked quickly down at Coyotito’s head, where he hung on Juana’s hip. Someday, his mind said, that boy would know what things were in the books and what things were not . ” He wanted a real marriage for Juana and himself to make a respectable woman of her. He wanted to be able to afford nicer clothing so it would not be so obvious that they were the outcasts of society . He dreamed of a rifle to hunt with so the family would remain prosperous even after the money from pearl of the world had been used up.
Finding the pearl is synonymous to winning the lottery. Before the winner obtains the jackpot, they are complacent with the life they’ve been living. Then, after one stroke of luck, their world is turned upside down. According to the New York Post, in 2002 a cowboy name Jack Whittaker won $315 million in December from the Powerball. In a strip club eight months later, someone robbed $545,000 from Whittaker. Later his granddaughter and his daughter both died from overdoses of drugs bought with his winnings. Five years after winning big, thieves had emptied Whittaker’s bank accounts.
He was quoted by police saying, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up. ” Just like Kino, Whittaker’s intentions were noble at first; he planned to give 10% of his winnings to charities since he was already well-off . All the same, financial problems stopped him from doing so. Juana and Kino’s tale ended in misery as did Whittaker’s. There are undoubtedly many more cases of prizes that turn out to be the polar opposite and ruin lives . Finally, it is glaringly obvious that greed really is the root of all evil and family is to be treasured more than riches. The Pearl makes a bold point of these themes.
A beautifully written tragedy that deserves a place among the greatest American classics, Steinbeck’s novella is to be read and absorbed thoroughly by those who choose to do so. Heed this cautionary tale, remember each character and what they lost in order to receive wealth. Everyone should read this book at least once in their life, if not to take away forethought on the dangers of greed, then to bask in the glory of Steinbeck’s written word. This book has heartwarmingly wormed its way deep into my brain and I will never forget Kino’s misfortune. Cherish everyone and be wary of catastrophes disguised as quick, easy, opportunity.