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The Pearl: Depictions of Life

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 orn 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 oor 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 amily’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 ting, 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 truggle 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 hese characters and the town of La Paz, Steinbeck informs his reader that wealth and happiness do not always come together, and that being wealthy does not mean everything. Most importantly, he shows that the struggle to become successful can destroy one’s initial dreams. Kino finally realizes the worthlessness of the pearl after Coyotito’s death and as Steinbeck writes: “And in the surface of the pearl he saw Coyotito laying in the cave with his head shot away. And the pearl was ugly; it was gray, like a malignant growth… And Kino drew back his arm and flung the pearl with all his might. “

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