"The Pearl" by John Steinbeck

Essay by mazzarocks October 2007

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In "The Pearl", by John Steinbeck, there are many themes. Two of these are family and evil. They contribute a lot to the book and readers can learn valuable lessons from them.

Family plays an important part in the book. In chapter 1, page 1; you have the opening scene of a Kino hearing the song of the family while the family are doing their normal morning routine. The song and the family it represents are protected by Kino because it is all he has and he loves it. In chapter 2 it talks about the canoe he inherited from his grandfather, which is his only thing of value and it makes him proud. He takes great care in it because he uses it to provide for his family. With it he found a precious pearl. When the doctor comes in chapter 3, he has to trust him even though he thinks he is lying about Coyotito's condition because if he's not, then his only son could die.

Juana tells Kino to get rid of the pearl, for it is evil, in chapter 4 (page 51). Kino refuses because he still thinks that the pearl will provide education for his son, which would mean they could escape their simple life. He doesn't want people who have a formal education to take advantage of Coyotito, like they do with other uneducated natives. In chapter 5 Juana warns him again that the pearl will destroy their family, but Kino thinks the wealth of the pearl is the best way to protect the family, even though it is pushing Kino and Juana apart. Also in chapter 6, Kino kills someone and another person lights their hut on fire. Kino's brother Juan Tomas helps him to escape from all the destruction that has happen and divert the neighbours from finding out what really is happening. In chapter 6, Kino believes that by making their escape, everything will work out because the pearl promises security and peace and now their family will prosper. Later he discovers that trackers are following them and decides he should give up, but Juana reminds him that the trackers will kill her and Coyotito as well and so he doesn't give up. When they are up in the mountains, with the trackers there, Kino has a chance to secure his family's future by disarming the men, as long as the baby keeps silent during the night, but Coyotito does cry and is killed by one of the trackers and Kino kills them. Juana was right from the beginning, the pearl was destructive. Their peace and happiness was not found in the pearl. It cost them Coyotito's life and now their family has a hole that cannot be filled.

Evil was another main theme in the book. The scorpion in the first chapter represents evil, similar to Satan the snake which was in the Garden of Eden. Before the scorpion came, the home was peaceful and Kino had the song of the family in his head, but when he saw it, he heard the song of evil. The song of evil comes when the family is threatened. In chapter 2, when they go to the doctor to see if he can help Coyotito, the song of evil is heard. This is because he knows the doctor is of the race that abused Kino's people for four hundred years. He knows that he will try to cheat them or abuse them, like his people have done for generations. When Kino finds the pearl in chapter 2, people become friendlier with him so they can try and have part of the pearl. One such occasion is when the doctor drops round their house to treat Coyotito for the scorpion sting and the priest also comes to offer his services. People who had favours to ask and things to sell also had an interest in Kino now. In chapter 4, Kino goes to the buyers to sell the pearl. The buyers lie and say it is worthless and offer him little, for they think he will believe them, as he is an 'uneducated native' and they're 'experts'. Kino refuses to sell it for their price. Later that night, Kino is attacked. The pearl has turned his friends into enemies; they are jealous and envy the pearl Kino has found. In chapter 5, Juana tries to get rid of the pearl without the knowledge of Kino, but he realises she has gotten up in the night, to get rid of it and hurts her before she can throw it away. Their relationship is so great that conversation is not needed, and yet the pearl is able to divide them. In the same chapter Kino is forced to kill a man to defend him and the pearl. Then his hut is set on fire after someone tries to find the pearl. They decide to escape. In chapter 6, Kino has a premonition of danger and discovers that trackers are following his family and if they find them, he knows that they will kill him for the pearl. Later in the chapter when they go up to the mountains, the trackers eventually follow. Coyotito cries and the trackers hear it and think it's a coyote and shoot and they kill the baby. Kino kills the three trackers, so his family survive, except he's too late to save his son's life.

The discovery of the pearl could have benefited Kino's family. Potentially it was a pearl of great price, to borrow a phrase from the parable in . It proved to be a pearl of too high a price - the death of his infant son and Kino's own killing of the three trackers, despite the Commandment because of the triumph of evil. These two themes are intertwined and give Steinbeck's novella a timeless quality and relevance.

bibliography - the pearl