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Animal Imagery used throughout The Pearl by John Steinbeck

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Animal Imagery used throughout The Pearl by John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck in his parable-like novel The Pearl embraces the dark power of greed, which ultimately results in destruction. Kino, a simple Mexican pearl diver who provides for his wife Juana and baby boy Coyotito, finds a pearl, which he hopes will provide his family a better life, but instead shatters his life when his only child is killed by the men who are hunting him. Using a biblical style, uncomplicated language, and rich imagery, Steinbeck relates this story to universal values. In The Pearl, animal imagery is an essential motif that infiltrates the structure of the novel. Steinbeck utilizes animal imagery to foreshadow Kino's catastrophe, to illustrate Kino's character decline, and to symbolize the corruption of civilization.

Initially, the motif of animal imagery is used to predict the tragedy that comes to Kino. For instance, while Kino is observing the beautiful, peaceful morning, he examines a vulnerable ant ensnared in a set by an ant lion "with the detachment of God" (pg 3). This demonstrates that Kino, like the feeble ant, will be harassed by sadistic predators. This imagery also confirms that Kino cannot anticipate assistance from God. Furthermore, "it would be a clumsy fight" for the roosters that Kino was watching near the brush fence because "they were not game chickens" (pg 4). This foreshadows the awkward fight Kino will have with the pearl because it is evil and will not consent to fulfilling Kino's happiness. This also shows that Kino is not skilled in selling the pearl and is not acquainted with the pearl buyers tactics. The most dramatic illustration of this motif is when the "scorpion moved delicately down the rope toward the box" where Coyotito, Kino's son, is sleeping (pg 5). The scorpion could whip up his tail in a flash of time, which indicates how simply everything can turn for the worst. This imagery is an example of the evil of the pearl and how it could attack Kino and his family at any second.

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