The Pearl-John Steinbeck: How does Steinbeck use symbolism to develop his themes in The Pearl?

Essay by nc69High School, 11th gradeA, March 2004

download word file, 4 pages 4.5

Downloaded 47 times

Symbolism embodies an abstract idea or concept by using an object or character. In the parable, The Pearl, Steinbeck uses symbolism extensively to create and develop the novel's themes. The pearl of the book's title is a symbol, which develops from a paradise of hopes and dreams, to a destructive centre of evil. The key symbol of the pearl generates the theme of the destructive nature of greed throughout the book. The doctor as a symbol develops the theme of oppression. Steinbeck elaborates the theme of humanity in the natural world by changing the way he describes nature.

The theme of greed is elaborated through objects and characters such as the pearl, the doctor and the pearl dealers. The pearl, known as the "Pearl of the World", is the focal symbol of the novel. The transformation from an innocent, idyllic heaven of wealth and perfection to a damaging force of darkness develops the theme of the destructive nature of greed.

This theme is prominent throughout the novel and arises as the materialistic world's destructive influence takes effect on Kino's simple life. By bringing out the evil and greed in men, the pearl, rather than a blessing forms into a curse. As the symbol of the pearl changes, the theme of greed surfaces, bringing out the evil in the men in the town, and even the evil in Kino himself. Kino is so consumed by and attached to the pearl he states,

"The pearl has become my soul...If I give it up I shall lose my soul"

(p. 61)

As his greed intensifies, he becomes so obsessed with selling the pearl that he ultimately loses everything, his canoe, his original way of life and eventually his son. The realism and irony of all of Kino's losses illustrates the damaging and...