The Pearl


Key Quotes

1. “And, as with all retold tales that are in people’s hearts, there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil things and no in-between anywhere.”

This quote comes from the brief prologue, or the author’s epigraph, to the tale. It both introduces the novella and sets the tone and parameters of its moral dimensions. By likening the tale to a parable in which all persons, things, and actions can be reduced to good or evil, Steinbeck announces the allegorical nature of the tale and how it may be read. That is to say, the characters and types may be construed as symbols, and the actions may be viewed as having moral consequences.

2. “In his mind a new song had come, the Song of Evil, the music of the enemy, of any foe of the family, a savage, secret, dangerous melody, and underneath, the Song of the Family cried plaintively.”

It is with this song, which accompanies the appearance of the scorpion and the endangerment of the baby, that Kino begins his battle with evil both without and within himself. The evil in the world is admitted through the threat of the scorpion, but it is personified by the doctor, and then expanded by the pearl, until it is exposed in Kino, too. Throughout his battle with evil, Kino tries to reassert and hold onto the Song of the Family, but as he himself succumbs to the Song of Evil, he sacrifices his family to hold onto the pearl and the dreams it inspires.

3. “And every year Kino refinished his canoe with the hard shell-like plaster by the secret method that had also come to him from his father.”

Here it is shown that Kino belongs to an ancient custom and tradition, preserved through practice and the maintenance of his inheritance. His canoe, the symbol of his livelihood and his past, is preserved by a tried-and-true exercise of refinishing it with plaster, the secret of which belongs to the village. Holding onto these secrets and keeping the canoe intact is what allows Kino to...

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Essays About The Pearl