The Pearl


Points To Ponder

1. Although Steinbeck introduces the novella as a parable in which all things may be identified as either good or evil, there is some ambiguity in The Pearl. How does this ambiguity set the stage for the battle between good and evil?

Ambiguity is manifested in the religious beliefs of Juana and Kino. As Mexican Indians, their cultural background is both pagan and Catholic. Thus, Juana will pray to Mary, the mother of God, while at the same time uttering magical spells that belong to her pagan heritage. Her Catholic religion should inform her that the gods of the pagans are devils, so it should be apparent that she prays to both God and to devils at the same time. Yet this teaching appears to be confused in her superstitious mind, perhaps because the priest shows little interest in his flock and has not spent much time catechizing them.

In Kino, this religious ambiguity also is suggested by his seeming reference to God or the gods. Unable to discern who it is that is governing the universe, Kino and his wife are therefore subject to the deceptive charms of evil, whether in the doctor or in the pearl. The fact that good and evil both seem to exist already in each of them is what makes it easy for the pearl’s evil to appear to be such a good to them both.

The uncertainty regarding truth and custom in both Kino and Juana leads them to fall for the trickery and novelty of the doctor (rather than to trust to their own remedies and the counsel of their neighbors). Their uncertainty also leads them to long for the pearl, though there is no need to seek it in the first place. However, because they lack awareness of the true nature of the doctor and the pearl, they are deceived into pursuing both.

2. It is never stated who the assassins, robbers, and trackers are. However, there are a number of characters in the novella who might have conspired with one or all of them. Which characters have motives for conspiring with the assassins, robbers, and trackers?

The doctor, the buyers, the priest,...

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Essays About The Pearl