The Pearl

The Pearl

John Ernst Steinbeck
John Steinbeck was born in 1902, in Salinas, California. He was of Westfalian descent on his father’s side, his father was half - German, and of Irish on his mother’s side. He studied at Stanford University for some years (from 1919 to 1925), and took particular interest in biology, a course of studies that taught him how to make exact observations. He did not, how - ever, pass any final examination.
He looked for work in all possible spheres, particularly in the country where he got to know the conditions under which farm - hands had to work. Later he got jobs in New York, which were in no way different from the usual jobs taken up by unskilled workers in America. He worked as a dish - washer, a bricklayer, a porter and finally as a newspaper - reporter.
John Steinbeck wrote a great deal, but remained pretty well unknown till he got the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, a distinction which, for the first time, drew the attention of the public to him. He received the prize for his exiting novel "The Grapes of Wrath". In 1962 he awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died 1968 in New York.

Other works of Steinbeck:
    • Cup of Gold (1929) The Pastures of Heaven (1932) To a God Unknown (1933) Tortilla Flat (1935) Dubious Battle (1936) Saint Kathy, the Virgin (1936) Of Mice and Men (1937) The Red Pony (1937) The Long Valley (1938) The Forgotten Village (1941) The Sea of Cortez (1941) Bombs Away: The Story of Bomber Team (1942) The Moon is down (1942) Cannery Row (1944)

And finally there is his little story The Pearl (1948), a simple, well constructed and yet exciting story about the world of primitive, naive human beings. A simple fisherman, Kino, together with his wife Juana and the baby Coyotito, is torn from his environment by finding a pearl and thrown into a new world completely strange to him, in which right has been turned into wrong. There is not a word, not a sentence in this story that has not been deeply felt by the author; men and animals, even the dead things breathe out an equally strong sense of life.

In the town they tell the story of the great pearl - how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story has been told so often, it has taken root in every man’s mind. And as with all retold tales that are in people’s hearts, there are only good and bad things and no in - between anywhere.
"If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it. In any case, they say in the town that.. ."
I. Chapter
Kino lives with his wife Juana and his son Coyotito in La Paz, a town which lays on the seaboard. They are poorly off there, but happy. They cannot give very much to their son, but they can give him the most important thing: love.
One day Coyotito is stung by a scorpion and, a baby like Coyotito can easily die from that. Coyotito is the firstborn and almost everything what belongs to Juana and Kino. The parents are terribly worried about Coyotito and so they do anything to help the baby. They go to the doctor, but he is a white man and he also helps only white man, besides Kino has no money to pay the doctor.

II. Chapter
Now Kino wants to find a pearl to be able to pay the doctor and he believes that Coyotito would die if he does not find a pearl.
The one valuable thing that Kino owns is his canoe. He got it from his father and his father inherited it from his grand - father. The canoes are made with a hard shell - like plaster by a secret method that has also come to him from his father.
In this boat Kino, Juana and the ill baby Coyotito go out on the sea to search pearls. Juana gathers some brown seaweed and puts it on Coyotito’s swollen shoulder. That is a better remedy than the doctor could give it but the do not believe it, because it did not cost anything.
Then Kino takes a basket and dives on the ground. There he lifts some oysters and puts then into the basket, then he sees an open one and he believes that he has seen a pearl inside. Then the oyster closes, it is a very big one, Kino lifts it, puts it into the basket and goes back into the boat. There he opens the oysters with a knife. In the large one he sees a very big and pretty pearl. He cannot believe it first. The pearl is as large as a seagull’s egg. It is the biggest pearl in the world. Kino has found the greatest pearl of the world.
But that is not the only luck. When they regard Coyotito, they see that the swelling is going out of the baby’s shoulder, the poison is receding from its body.

III. Chapter
In the town it spreads quickly, that Kino has found the greatest and most beautiful pearl in the world, and so, after some time, everybody is informed about it.
A lot of man are happy with Kino, because Kino is their friend, but also a lot of men want to get Kino’s pearl. So some try to become quickly Kino’s fiends, while others think that they can get the pearl when they kill Kino.
Also the Doc knows in no time at all that Kino is now the owner of a very big, and maybe even very valuable, pearl. So the Doc sets off to Kino’s hut, to treat Coyotito there for his scorpion sting. When the Doc sees that Coyotito is already well, he gives him some white powder, which makes the baby ill, and an hour later Doc returns and gives the baby again something so that he becomes well again. So Doc can say, that he has saved the baby’s live for the scorpion sting.
In the following night Kino is attacked for the first time. Someone breaks into the house and there he wants to steal the pearl. But Kino can stab the wicked man with his knife so that he fled.
Juana now realises that the pearl will destroy them, but Kino does not want to hear anything about that.

IV. Chapter
Next morning Kino wants to sell his pearl. He goes with his brother Juan Tomás into the town where a lot of pearl buyers live. But in reality there is only one pearl buyer and the other ones are his employers. They cheat the pearl fisher and pay them much lower prices than they should get. But Kino does not know that.
The pearl buyers say to him that it is not a real pearl and they want to give him only 1000 pesos. But Kino knows that his pearl is more worth and so he does not sell them his pearl. Also his brother Juan Tomás says to him, that Kino should better go to the capital to sell his pearl there.

V. Chapter
But in the next night Kino is attacked again. He is wounded but he can although defeat his enemy. Juana is afraid and she fears that something can happen to Kino or that he maybe even can be killed. Therefor she takes the pearls and goes to the shore. She wants to throw the pearl back into the sea. But in the last moment Kino can check her and takes the pearl. But in the next night Kino is attacked again. He is wounded but he can although defeat his enemy. Juana is afraid and so she talks to him and she tries again to persuade him to give the pearl away. When he comes back to his house, he is attacked there again, by one of his enemies. But now Kino is so angry that he kills him. Therefor his enemies destroy Kino’s boat and burn down his house. So Kino has to stay at his brother Juan Tom├ís. His brother warns him once more that the pearl only brings bad luck, but Kino all the same does not separate him of the pearls.
In the following night Kino, Juana and their baby Coyotito set off to the capitol.

VI. Chapter
In the night Juana and Kino hear noises and so they get awake. Kino sees three men, who follow his wife and him. So Kino, Juana and their little son Coyotito clear off, they disappear into the mountains.
In one of the following nights, Kino decides to attack the three truckers. During the fight one of the truckers' shoots Coyotito. Kino kills the truckers, and later Juana and Kino return home, to the little fishing village la Paz.
In the end Kino throws the pearl back into the sea.

Main Characters

The pearl changed also Kino a lot. Formally he and his family had only to fear poverty, but later they had fear death.

She is Kino’s wife. Juana realises already very early that the pearl brings more bad than good luck to her family. She tried very often to persuade her husband Kino to leave the pearl, but he did not listen.

He is Juana’s and Kino’s little baby.

Juan Tomás
He is Kino’s brother. Also he realises that the pearl is not exactly the best thing what has ever happened to his brother. But nevertheless he stands al the time to Kino.

Structure of the Book
The book has six chapters and about 80 pages.
Steinbeck did not use a lot of dialogues in this book, but of course it includes some. It did not include any monologues.
The book was chronological and told from the point of view of a third person.

Language which was Used
I liked the book a lot, because it really was easy to under - stand. I almost understood every single word, and in general the book was very easy to read.
When one read the book, one notices Steinbeck’s attachment to the nature. Steinbeck describes the nature of California in this book.
The story tells us about the nativity of poor people. They do not realise that people are just friendly to take some advantage of something or somebody. It is a big surprise for Kino to realise that other people are not just happy with him because he has found the pearl and became rich. In this particular moment he can see who is a real friend of him. The majority of people just pretends to be his friend. But the only thing they want to get is the pearl. Some bad people do not even hesitate to try to kill him. So the pearl opens Kino’s eyes to be able to distinguish between good and bad people, real and false friends.

I think, one can take the Pearl as a parable or as an active and limpid narrative whose depth ... is far more than one would suspect.
I learned from this book that one should be happy with that what one has. As Kino found the pearl he wanted always to have more and more. But actually the pearl did not give him anything, but took him very much away: not only material things but also his son and even more.
I liked this book very much, not only because it was so easy to read.

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