, Research Paper
Thesis: In The Pearl, John Steinbeck depicts the theme of appearance versus reality, as he explores Kino s journey through life with the pearl of the world in his possession.
A. What is it?
1. A term used when an author talks of one
thing, and thereby conveys another
2. Steinbeck ties it in with realism
B. How does it tie in with the story?
1. Steinbeck stated, That the pearl is not
totally in realistic tradition.
2. He takes a simple object and puts so much
detail into it that the object is not
II. Realistic Detail
A. Embellishes Allegory
1. Steinbeck always adds his touch
a. The tide pool description in chapter 2
b. The great wind passages at the end of
- These passages operate symbolically
as well as realistically
- Some work together allegorically
2. Symbolism, allegory, and realistic detail
a. Animal imagery dominates the human
b. Woven satisfactorily together
III. Kino s Strength
A. Proved that he cannot be cheated nor destroyed
B. Heights to which he has risen rather than the
depths to which he has slipped back
IV. Kino s Journey s
A. Search for Salvation
1. His desire for a better life
2. Cloaked in the mystery and darkness
B. Kino s strengths out of suffering
1. Triumphed over his enemy but only because
the death of his son inspired him
2. Kino s purpose to keep the pearl was to
make a better life for his son, but now
that Coyotito is gone, the pearl is going
V. Why does Steinbeck add realism to the story?
A. Essential to the overlay his primary media of
parable and folklore with the coat of realism
B. Animal Imagery pervades this novel with the
realistic detail that becomes one of its
In The Pearl, John Steinbeck depicts the theme of appearance versus reality, as he explores Kino s journey through life with the pearl of the world in his possession. The Pearl is a simple, lyrical tale which Steinbeck called a black and white story like a parable. (Bloom 27) It is a parable about the search for happiness and the nature of [a] man s need to choose between the inherently benign natural life and the frantic, self-oriented modern world. (27) When the novel first began, Kino, his wife Juana, and his son Coyotito, were a normal Indian family. What they did not know was that a tiny pearl that was discovered by Kino would change their lives forever.
Kino is a poor but mildly satisfied pearl fisherman. (28) A devoted husband and father, his song is the Song of Family. (28) Before Kino found the Pearl of the World his whole life was his family. After discovering the pearl, without even realizing it, his priorities shifted. Gradually, the Song of the Pearl merges with The Song of Family. (28) Kino sees the pearl as a chance to develop a better life for him and his family. He will begin to question the institutions that have kept him primitive: medicine, the church, the pearl industry, and the government. (Davis 153) Kino sees the great pearl as providing the opportunity to pay for a church
wedding, new clothes, and a rifle [and an education for his son.] (French 128) All of these needs show that Kino is no longer singing The Song of Family in his head. He is now more concerned with The Song of The Pearl. Kino looks down into the surface of his fabulous pearl and forms misty, insubstantial dreams that will never come true. (Bloom 29) The word spread around town about Kino s pearl, and the people of La Paz become envious. All of a sudden people who never had anything to do with Kino, wanted to know everything about him. When Kino [found] his great pearl, the organism of the town stir[red] to life, and an interest develop[ed] in Kino. (29) The pearl was not always a good thing for Kino and his family. It turns out to be more bad than good. The pearl could bring the family everything that it could ever want, but it also placed a sense of danger among their household. The [pearl dealer] belittled the jewel thinking [he would] get it for little profit. (Swisher 95) As attempts made first to cheat him of his wealth and later to steal his pearl, The Song of The Pearl became a Song of Evil, as Kino fought to save himself, his family, and his new found wealth. (Bloom 30) In order for Kino to save these three things he had to gather his wife and son and leave his hometown of La Paz due to the violence that was being directed towards him. Before he knew
it, Kino had lost his boat that had been passes down from generation to generation, his canoe, and eventually his son. Kino is now even poorer than he was before he found the Pearl of the World. Therefore, this tiny little object has caused him more pain and suffering than happiness.
Steinbeck is a master in supplying realistic detail. (Davis 153) It is amazing how he took this one object and put so much meaning into it. His description of the natural world is so handled as to double and treble duty in enrichment of both symbolism and allegory. (153) To add reality to a fable, Steinbeck had to diminish realism. An example of this would be the beginning of chapter three. Steinbeck is very descriptive in saying that, a town has a nervous system, and a head, and shoulders and feet. Steinbeck also adds a special touch in almost every chapter. An example would be that of the great wind passages in chapter five. (Swisher 97)
The wind screamed over the Gulf and turned the water
white, and the mangroves plunged like frightened
cattle, and a fine sandy dust arose from the land
and hung in a stifling cloud over the sea. The wind
drove off the clouds and skimmed the sky clean and
drifted the sand of the country like snow.
Another example would be the pearl-buyer with his sleight of hand coin-manipulation mid-way through chapter four. (97)
He rolled a coin back and forth over his knuckles
and made it appear and disappear, [he] made it spin
and sparkle. The coin winked into sight and [just]
as quickly winked out of sight, and the man did not
even watch his own performance. The fingers did it
all, mechanically, [and] precisely, while the man
hummed to himself and peered out the door.
These passages operate symbolically as well as realistically, and some of them even allegorically. (97) Also throughout the novel, animal imagery dominates the human scene. (97) Steinbeck combines symbols, allegory and realistic detail to get his point across. One thing that always remains at the end of an allegorical journey is that the traveler, in this case Kino, is still alive. (Davis 158)
In The Pearl, all the characters except Kino s wife, [Juana], are afflicted with an irrational lust for material wealth. (French 153) All anyone cared about was the pearl and what it could bring them. No one cared about the consequences it could bring, and on one imagined the pain it would eventually cause its owner. When Kino at last develops the
consciousness that allows him to forsake his materialistic dream, he simultaneously develops the conscience that allows him to throw back into the sea the great pearl that so excites the evil forces in men s natures. (153) Although his journey was full of heartache and sorrow, Kino developed much strength throughout the story. Kino [was] not defeated. (Davis 160) [Kino] has proved that he cannot be cheated or
destroyed. (160) The real triumph is the heights to which he has risen rather than the depths to which he has slipped back. (160) That is the immense knowledge that he has gained about good and evil.
Although The Pearl is a short novel, Steinbeck still managed to get a point across. The main character, Kino, had to go on a voyage. His flight may be seen as a two-part journey. (Davis 158) It is half spiritual–the route to salvation of the soul–and half physical–the way to freedom from bodily wants. (158) The only reason Kino wanted the pearl that he found was to satisfy his family s needs. He thought that because of the pearl everything would be great, but it did not turn out that way after all. When the novel finally ended Kino had less than he did when he started. Therefore, it is probably true when Steinbeck states that, Humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want
something more. (Bloom 28) The knowledge that Kino gained is the tool that he needs to help him on the final journey, the inescapable journey that every man must take. (Davis 160)