Home » John Steinbeck » Examples Of Greed In The Pearl By John Steinbeck Essay

Examples Of Greed In The Pearl By John Steinbeck Essay

People living in first world countries are very blessed, having enough money to support them and their families is a luxury only some can afford. But if they start wanting more riches than they need, it becomes very easy to lose sight of what’s truly important and give into greed. Wanting things that aren’t needed is common, young kids often want toys that they don’t need, but when that lust for the unnecessary grows, it can become deadly. Greed changes people, in The Pearl, by John Steinbeck, Kino falls victim to his own greedy nature after the pearl in introduced.

His need for materialistic things damages some of the most important relationships in his life. In The Pearl, by John Steinbeck, it is wrong for Kino to want more than he is given, because greed and gluttony leads to lost morals, loss of true self and breaking of family bonds. Greed, one of the seven deadly sins, makes Kino less sympathetic toward those around him. As soon as Kino comes in contact with the pearl, greed begins to manifest itself inside Kino. He starts to dream about things in his life that he doesn’t have, or need.

He also starts to push his ideas and thoughts onto Coyotito, not thinking about what Coyotito might want in his own future. “And Kino saw in the pearl, Kino holding a Winchester Carbine … ‘A rifle’, he said, ‘Perhaps a rifle” (25). Kino doesn’t need a rifle, at this point in The Pearl, everyone living in La Paz is living in harmony, but that doesn’t matter to Kino. Now that he is rich enough to obtain a gun, he’s going to get one. If Kino does get the gun, it will signify a change in status, showing readers that he isn’t content with the life he has and wants more. In the pearl he say Coyotito and sitting at a desk in a school, … he will know and through him we will know” (25-26).

Although initially it sounds nice for Kino to want his son to go to school, it isn’t hard to understand that his true intentions aren’t as pure. If Kino truly wants to have knowledge and understanding then he can learn himself, and not be greedy and force his son to do his dirty work. The greed inside Kino brings out his more slothful and unsympathetic side, he refuses to do the work needed in order to obtain his goal and he doesn’t think about what his son is going to want when he is older.

The change that is happening in Kino only starts to grow, his greed becomes so strong that he turns away an innocent animal in need. Steinbeck describes “The skinny black puppy with flame spots over his eyes came to Kino’s door and looked in. He nearly shook his hindquarters loose when Kino glanced up at hem, and he subsided when Kino looked away” (33). This shows the reader how far Kino has drifted from his sympathetic side, he no longer feels compelled to help an innocent animal that has done nothing to him.

This is also the first time in the book where the animals are hungry and begging for food, which is the first step in La Paz becoming worldlier. Having Kino reject an innocent animal and having this be the start of the change in La Paz is not a coincidence, it shows how important sympathy is to maintaining the goodness and purity inside and how Kino is losing that part of him. An important piece of symbolism that Steinbeck included in this passage was the flame spots over the dog’s eyes.

In the Bible fire, and therefor flame, is an important and common symbol for God, and having the flame spots over the dog’s eyes means that the dog is seeing through God’s eyes. Meaning that God has come down from Heaven to test Kino, and see if Kino has completely given into greed and gluttony. As Kino’s greed turns into a loss of sympathy, he starts losing other things too, like his community and sense of trust. His greed changes who he is, he now is suspicious and fearful of everyone around him; his fear becomes so strong that that song of evil can be heard. “… the music of evil, of the enemy sounded, but it was faint and weak.

And Kino looked at his neighbors to see who might have brought the song” (27). Kino no longer trusts those around him, his fear of losing the pearl has changed his perception of those around him. It’s interesting how Kino looks around to see where the song of evil is coming from, but he doesn’t think that he could be the one who is creating the song, or that the pearl is evil. He thinks that he’s better than the rest of the village in a way, he doesn’t think to check himself or his behavior, he immediately thinks about his neighbors, reinstating Kino’s lack of trust in his community.

Greed is powerful and it will bring out the worst in seemingly kind and respectable people, to the point where they no longer feel for others. Greed is powerful, it seeped into Kino and it eventually took over his life, forever changing his actions and his morals. In the beginning or the book Kino trusted his village, La Paz originally represented Eden, and there were no lies, deceiving or sin. In Eden Adam and Eve trusted each other and so did the animals.

But the pearl changed that, it made Kino, distrusting and cruel, destroying Eden forever. Kino’s lack of trust leads into a loss of community, Steinbeck depicts “And Juana (… asked, ‘Who do you fear? ” Kino searched for a true answer, and at last he said ‘Everyone” (36). It appears as if there is still good in Kino, he doesn’t want to lie, and although that appears to be an unimportant detail it shows that although corruption is taking place a small part of him is hanging on, some of his morals are still left intact. Although, Kino does admit to fearing everyone, and in more rural and village type setting a community is an extension of one’s family, Kino not trusting his village is equivalent of not trusting a cousin.

This highlights the level of mistrust and fear that Kino is feeling. Fear leads people to the dark side, Kino fell victim to his fear and let it consume him to the point of murder. Steinbeck illustrates “Now, in an instant, Juana new that the old life was gone forever. A dead man in the path and Kino’s knife, dark bladed beside him, convinced her” (60-61). The dead man that Kino killed represents their old life, it’s gone and dead through Kino’s fear. Kino killed their old life when he gave into the fear and greed that the pearl brought out of him.

Steinbeck’s word choice was important in this passage, Juana describes the knife as a ‘dark blade’, not ‘coated in blood or bloodied blade’, the darkness of the blade symbolizes the change in Kino’s soul. The purity of Kino’s soul has left him after the kill, changing his morals once again, now he believes that killing, if meant to protect, is okay. He is changing what he sees as sinful based on his actions and the lengths that he is willing to go to keep the pearl.

Kino isn’t content with killing one man, he wants a stronger weapon than a knife, a rifle. Steinbeck describes, “When we sell it at last, I will have a rifle,’ (… We will be married in a church,’ (… ) “Our son must learn to read… ” (71). Kino wants a rifle above all else, he places getting a rifle before matters concerning his own family, and although one could argue that he would be getting a rifle to protect his family, before the pearl there was no need for a rifle and Kino’s family was safe and secure. His anxiety and dread of the unknown leads to Kino lose sight of what is truly important, his family and his community. Fear is evil, it leads people down a path of despair and loneliness, it also has the power to destroy lives and communities.

Greed leads to corruption, and corruption changes people, which makes them lose those they love, this happens to Kino as he becomes more greedy. In the beginning Kino cares very much for his wife and his family and would never do anything that would hurt them. But the more time that he spends with the pearl the more violent he becomes, he does the unthinkable and hurts his wife. Kino’s love for his wife quickly takes a back seat to his admiration for the pearl; he loves the pearl so much that he even hurts his wife to protect it.

Steinbeck shows this change to readers, by describing how Kino abuses his wife, “He stuck her in the face with his clenched fist and she fell among the boulders, and he kicked her in the side” (59). Kino has always been gentle and kind toward Juana, never before has he hurt her or abused her, and even if she forgives Kino the memory will never leave her. Juana is a very passive character, later on in the passage she gives up fighting back and accepts her fate. Although she accepts it, that doesn’t mean that she will forgive Kino, and if she does manage to forgive him, that doesn’t mean that she will ever be able to forget.

Also forgiveness doesn’t equal trust, she might never be able to trust him again. Juana and Kino relationship is forever tainted by the memory of him abusing her. Kino continues to hurt those around him, although he was the master of his own fate, he ended up choosing a dark path. Steinbeck illustrates, “If it’s a covote, this will stop it. ‘ the watcher said as he raised his gun. Kino was in mid-leap when the gun crashed and the barrelflash made a picture in his eyes” (86). Kino wasn’t aware of this at first, but the shot that came out of the gun when Kino tackled the watcher, was the shot that killed his son.

Kino killed his son so that he would be able to own a rifle. There was no need for Kino to tackle the watcher right then and there, but he did because the gun was in the optimal position for a quick and easy steal. Kino ultimately ended up putting a gun before his son, on his list of priorities. Kino now owns the gun but he doesn’t have any bullets, this is a parallel to how Kino has most of his family, but the unconditional love that makes a family a family is lost. La Paz was family at the beginning of the book, but by the end of the book he becomes detached from his community.

Steinbeck explains, “… he people say that he (Kino) carried fear with him, that he was as dangerous as a rising storm. The people say that the two seemed to be removed from human experience... ” (88). The fear that Kino is experiencing is the fear of whether or not he has lost this part of his family. He has already lost so much it’s hard to be afraid of losing this community too. Throughout the course of the book when Kino is afraid he turns violet, but he doesn’t in this situation. This leads me to believe that Kino recognizes that violence is the thing that turned his family against him, and he’s trying desperately to maintain the few bonds that remain.

Within the human experience love and family are important, without them life will become lonely and depressing. Kino made himself unable to feel because he’s afraid that his community will reject him and he would’ve destroyed every last relationship that he had. At the beginning of the book family and community were very important to Kino, but by the end of the book all of his family bonds crumble. In The Pearl, By John Steinbeck, Kino allows the pearl to take control of him and his life.

Kino was destroyed by greed and it’s corruptive nature; it made the important things in life look bland and insignificant. Greed clouded his mind and created a new person, this new Kino didn’t care about those he loved and it destroyed part of his humanity. Kino’s nonchalant disposition and desire for material things created something villainous inside of him, and he damaged old relationships that he once held close to his heart. Materials cannot take the place of family or community, and once those things are lost, it becomes almost impossible to gain them back.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.