Pearl As a Central Element in The Pearl By John Steinbeck
The Pearl, written by John Steinbeck, is known as one of his greatest works. The novella has been both enjoyed and analyzed ever since it first appeared in a magazine called the Woman’s Home Companion in 1945. The Pearl contains many themes and symbols. One of the most prominent symbols is the pearl found by Kino, hence the title of the book. It can be interpreted in many ways, but the way it is most often interpreted as is a symbol of greed and jealousy and how those traits contribute to the destruction of mankind..
In the beginning of the book, Kino discovered the pearl at the bottom of the ocean in an oyster. To him, this pearl was the most valuable thing he had, because it seemed to promise wealth and success for his family. However, almost immediately after he obtained the pearl, the residents from La Paz became jealous. The book quotes, “All manner of people grew interested in Kino- people with things to sell and people with favors to ask. Kino had found The Pearl of the World. The essence of pearl mixed with essence of men and a curious dark residue was precipitated. Every man somehow 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.” (3.6) This shows that because Kino had the pearl, he was not the friend of people, but the enemy. People did not look up to him because he was wealthy, but they despised him because they were jealous that the things he could do with that pearl were seemingly endless, and they wanted it for themselves.
When Kino went to the doctor to heal Coyotito from his scorpion sting, the doctor did a very dishonest thing to get more money out of Kino. The doctor made Coyotito even more sick than he was in the first place, so Kino would have to come back to the doctor to buy more medicine. The doctor wanted the pearl too. In chapter three, the greed of the doctor is shown with the following phrase. “The news came to the doctor […]. And the doctor’s eyes rolled up a little in their fat hammocks and he thought of Paris.”
Near the end of the book, the ownership of the pearl gives Kino some animalistic qualities. The book reads, “Kino looked down at her and his teeth were bared. He hissed at her like a snake, and Juana stared at him with wide and not frightened eyes, like a sheep before the butcher.” (5.3) This shows that even though Kino was at first a wonderful man, greed can turn even the nicest people into monsters.
As you can see, the symbolism of the pearl in this book is very significant. Many people believe that if you have money and clothes, the nice cars and the mansion, that you’ll be happy. This, however, is not true. The people that are happiest are the people that don’t take what they have for granted and put their energy into things that matter like friends, family, and God. To God, it doesn’t matter who had the bigger plasma screen TV. Being greedy is never going to get anyone anywhere.
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