The Pearl Essay

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The Pearl
How does John Steinbeck, author of ‘The Pearl’ successfully convey the main themes of the novella? ‘The Pearl’, by John Steinbeck has been a very touching, interesting novella to read. It originally appeared in the ‘Woman’s Home Companion’ Magazine in 1945. Set in a Mexican Indian village, the novella tells the story of Kino, a pearl diver who discovers the beautiful ‘Pearl of the World’. Upon finding this large, expensive pearl Kino changes as a person and has a desire to be rich and to change his everyday life. Unfortunately, this disruption in the usual day to day routines causes more trouble than the pearl is worth. Throughout the novella there are two main themes, one being the destructive power of greed, and the other colonial society’s oppression of native cultures, which are successfully conveyed by Steinbeck using several techniques, such as use of characters, motifs and symbols. Themes are the subject of a person’s writing, they are the fundamental ideas explored in literary work. Steinbeck wants us to learn about the ways in which greed is a destructive force and how colonial society cruelly and unfairly treats native cultures and cultures less wealthy than themselves. I think Steinbeck wants us to learn a life lesson not to be greedy or to demoralise others by assuming we are better than them simply because we are from a different, possibly better off culture than them. He does this mainly through character, motifs and symbols. The main character, Kino, is a very simple man, living to support his family and watch his son grow up. Kino is a very good example of how greed and its negative forces can corrupt people; he represents how greed is a very powerful, negative force. At the beginning of the novella Kino is happy and content with his life; he has a wife and son, a canoe and a house and is a great pearl diver. ‘This is safety, this is warmth, this is the Whole.’ However, after discovering the pearl, he begins to dream about changing his life, causing great corruption and unhappiness. After two events, a scorpion stinging his son Coyotito and him finding the pearl, Kino begins to covet material wealth and education for Coyotito. His simple life is suddenly extremely complicated due to the effect greed and conflict has on him. Kino dreams of his son having a future as an equal of the white people in the village. “My son will read and will open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know – and through him we will know”. However Kino’s greed and desire for such a thing leads to his own unhappiness. The more he wants the material wealth he dreams about, the more complicated his life gets. Kino changes from a loving family man to a selfish, greedy, shell of a man, driven by the desire for wealth. He becomes cruel and animal like, fighting for survival, not caring who he hurts on the way. ‘The people say that he was as dangerous as a rising storm.’ Throughout the novella we see Kino’s happiness descend from perfectly content to practically non-existent, this shows us that, through being greedy and wanting things that aren’t a necessity, your original well intentions can be twisted and warped. We see Kino change from a loving father and husband to a person barely part of his own family. His wife Juana realises this, and she tries to get rid of the pearl without Kino knowing. Kino finds her though, and when he beats her for disobeying him we see him truly break away from his previous happy family life and become a stranger to all that know him. From the start all that Kino wanted was for his son to be happy and to have a nice future. He sees the pearl as a way to achieve this. But instead of sticking to his original intentions, he wants more. He wants material wealth, things he doesn’t need but they would be nice to have and make him look better than others. But through his greed and stubborn attitude Kino’s...
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