The Pearl is about Kino, his wife Juana, and their baby Coyotito. Kino works as a pearl diver, and one day finds The Pearl of the World. He dreams that the pearl will buy him and his family peace and happiness. He soon learns, however, that peace and happiness are two things that can’t be bought.
Steinbeck is as subtle as a kick head in the head in this book. Everything started going downhill for Kino the second he laid eyes on the Pearl of the World. Everyone wanted a piece of that pearl—the other villagers, the greedy doctor, the pearl-buyers, and even the parish priest. Steinbeck keeps telling the reader over and over that it’s WRONG—almost evil—to aspire to be something more than you are. In fact, he spells it out for the reader in this excerpt:
“And the Father made it clear that each man and woman is like a soldier sent by God to guard some part of the castle of the Universe. And some are in the ramparts and some are in the darkness of the walls. But each one must remain faithful to his post and must not go running about, else the castle is in danger from the assaults of Hell.”What is so wrong with wanting to move up to the ramparts? If you’re poor and you want a better education for your children, that’s not wrong. If you strive hard to get a better life for yourself and your family, that’s not morally questionable. That’s being a decent human being.
But I did like how Steinbeck depicted Kino and Juana’s lives before he found the Pearl of the World. The first chapter, in particular, is quite beautiful. There are so many little details that you almost feel like you’re sitting next to Kino on a dirt floor, eating corn cakes.
Overall, I still love Steinbeck, but I didn’t like the message of this book and how often he repeated it. Too preachy for my taste. I’m still looking forward to his other work, though.