by Sage W.
The tale of someone whose ambition turned into greed is a familiar subject for most of us. This famous narrative is captured beautifully in The Pearl by John Steinbeck, a novella in the genre of realism. Steinbeck has written many popular books including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. He has a reputation for focusing on conveying realistic events and rich symbolism and themes throughout his book (Britannica), just like he does in one of his most well-known works, The Pearl.
In this story, Kino and his wife, Juana, are regular countryside people, albeit a little poor, somewhere along the Gulf of Mexico. Their lives are turned around when their baby, Coyotito, is stung by a scorpion. Immediately, they rush to find a doctor, but he refuses them, calling them “little Indians,” and comparing them to animals. This reveals the themes of racism and classism, as the doctor is unwilling to serve people that he thinks of lower class and race.
Coyotito is ultimately healed by a poultice made by Juana, relieving both of the parents, but then it is revealed that Kino has found a great, beautiful pearl, which is referred to in the book as the “Pearl of the World.” It is presumed to be worth a fortune.. Again, this shows more classism, as the family now has the opportunity to be richer and move up in class. Kino sees visions in the pearl of his wedding in a church, owning a rifle, and his baby growing up to be able to have an education. This reveals the theme of greed vs ambition, as Kino begins to become more ambitious and see glorious events in his future.
Unfortunately, Kino is cheated by the buyers when he attempts to sell the pearl, and he refuses their small offers, even though it would still be a lot of money to be able to move up in class. He wants the full potential of the pearl and starts becoming more and more greedy, deciding to try to go to the capital to sell the pearl himself. Once again, we see the theme of greed vs ambition. Throughout the rest of the novel, Kino faces several internal and external conflicts on his way to the capital. These themes spiral around Kino’s life changing decisions, culminating at the end.
One of this books’ major strengths was the way that it connected beautifully to the themes revealed in the story. The way Kino’s life becomes connected to this pearl is also very well written, and the slow change of his personality and life is enjoyable and suspenseful to follow along with. I did think Kino should have been more relatable throughout his journey, though. Some of the choices he made were rash and unreasonable, making him unlikable and unfavorable to the reader. I believe that if Kino had been more understandable, this great book would have been made even better.
In The Pearl by John Steinbeck, I learned that although having some ambition is a good thing, making sure that greed does not overcome ambition is also extremely important. In addition, treating people the right way no matter their race and class is just as key to being a fair and just person. I would definitely recommend this to readers who are fans of moral and deep journeys in literature because this book has a lot of classic themes and a great internal conflict within it.