Symbolism in the Pearl by John Steinbeck

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Symbolism in the Pearl by John Steinbeck

By | April 2011
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In John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, rich symbolism is used to convey the message of the parable being told. Symbolism is a useful tool in storytelling because it helps the author add a deeper meaning to the story. In The Pearl, Steinbeck enriches every aspect of the story with symbolism from the setting, to characters, and the plot itself. The different symbols interact with one another throughout the story, which ultimately affects the outcome of the novel. The first and most important symbol is the massive pearl that Kino finds. The pearl is very rich with symbolic meaning, which changes through the story. When Kino finally brings the massive stone to the surface and examines it, he views the pearl as the blessing of a lifetime. Looking into the pearl, Kino sees all of his dreams coming true: a beautiful wedding for his wife, a rifle for himself, and an education for his son. At first, the pearl is the symbol of freedom. Kino and his family could finally be freed from the oppression of poverty and a meager existence. This could also be interpreted as Steinbeck’s achievement of the American dream of quick fortune and prosperity. As the story unfolds, the theme associated with the pearl changes from a positive view to a negative one. As the village and town learn of the pearl, envy starts setting in among the people. Soon after, attempts are made to steal the pearl, leading to Kino’s assault, the burned home, and ultimately Coyotito’s death. In the end, the pearl ends up representing the evil resulting from greed. Kino, blinded by the wealth he could obtain, doesn’t recognize the evil the pearl brings out in him and others until its too late. Had Keno gotten rid of the pearl sooner, his son may have survived. Another symbol in the story is the sea. The Pearl takes place on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The village is a small community on the outskirts of the Mexican town, La Paz. The villagers living here are an indigenous people whose livelihood is...

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