The Pearl



In John Steinbeck\'s The Pearl, a destitute pearl diver finds a giant pearl with which
he hopes to buy peace and happiness for his family. Instead, he learns that the valuable pearl
can not buy happiness but only destroy his simple life. Throughout the fable, there is a
constant theme woven through the characters and setting which encompasses the struggle
among social classes to become successful. Steinbeck, a novelist known for his realistic
depictions of life, portrays this motif through Kino, the doctor, Coyotito, and the town of La
Paz.
John Earnst Steinbeck, author of The Pearl and many other stories, was born on
February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. Both his father, who ran a flour mill, and his
mother, a teacher, encouraged him to write once they saw his early interest in literature.
Steinbeck began his career by writing articles for his school newspaper and by taking classes
at Stanford University. At the same time, he worked at a local ranch where he witnessed the
harsh treatment of migrant workers. These underpriveleged laborers later served as the
inspiration for many of his novels, including The Grapes of Wrath. The Pearl, another
inspiration from his past, originated from a legend about the misfortunes of a poor boy who
found a giant pearl that was told to Steinbeck while on a trip to Mexico.
Kino, the protagonist in The Pearl, is an honest pearl diver that discovers the
sacrifices that come with the struggle for success. He dreams of the education the pearl
could provide for his son, but the pearl also makes Kino more suspicious of the peaceful
villagers around him. At one point, he tries to sell the pearl in order to pay for a doctor
Coyotito needs, but the pearl buyers only try to cheat him of the success he feels he deserves.
Then Kino tries to leave the town, but his fear only causes him to shoot Coyotito
accidentally. Finally, Kino returns to La Paz and throws the pearl into the sea. Kino, a
symbol of hard work and ambition, is destroyed by his dreams of a better life.
The town doctor also demonstrates how the struggle for success can corrupt people.
This "healer" is more interested in money than the welfare of others. While drinking
expensive tea out of tiny china cups, he sits in his large white house and dreams of returning
to Paris. When Juana comes to ask if he will treat Coyotito\'s scorpion sting, he promptly
sends her promptly away. However, when news of Kino\'s discovery reaches the doctor, he
rushes to the family\'s grass hut. Once there, he makes Coyotito sick so that he may cure the
infant and squeeze a portion of the pearl\'s wealth from the family. This disgraceful doctor
represents the arrogance of the powerful towards the powerless.
Coyotito, though only an infant, is also a very important symbol of the struggle for
success. An innocent victim of greed, he knows nothing more comforting than the simple life
he spends in his wooden crib and in his mother\'s arms. Yet, the pearl and the possibilities it
offers threaten and eventually take his life. Because of his poverty, he is refused treatment
for a scorpion sting, and beacuse of his fimily\'s wealth he is made sick by a greedy doctor.
Finally, the pearl costs little Coyotito his life when Kino accidentally thinks his eyes are
those of trackers coming to take the pearl.
Even the town of La Paz gives evidence of the strife that costs the life of a child.
Located on the coast of Mexico, most of the Indians in this town are merely fishermen trying
to feed their families. These people are constantly taken advantage of by traders that come.
Unfortunately, they can do nothing, or their families will lose business. For the people, there
is a struggle each day just to make ends meet. However, their grass and mud huts clash with
the stone and plaster city of the rich. It is through the city of stone and plaster that Juana must
boldly journey through to ask the doctor for help. The huts battle to enter the boundaries of
the rich, just as Kino fights the boundaries of social stratification.
Through the struggles that Kino faces, he reveals the conflicts between the rich and
the poor. Coyotito teaches the reader how innocent bystanders can suffer, and the doctor
shows what type of people could do such a thing. Through these characters and the town of
La