The Pearl by John Steinbeck: A Symbol
In John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, the symbolism associated with the Pearl of the World evolves throughout the novella from a symbol of hope and prosperity to a symbol of greed and destruction. The Pearl tells of the story of Kino, who Is Ignorant of this evolution, and how the pearl corrupts him with greed, as well as others, throughout the story. In the beginning of The Pearl, when Kino first finds It, It symbolizes hope and a new beginning for Kino’s family. Kino thinks the pearl will bring vast amounts of wealth to his family as he Is entranced by Its magnificence.
However, as the novella progresses, the pearl’s symbolism transforms Into that of greed and evil. The pearl Is starting to negatively affect Kino’s life as greed Is corrupting him and the ones around him. Finally, at the end of the novella, Kino realizes the true nature of the pearl as Its symbolism becomes slnlster and malevolent. The pearl causes many external forces to bring hardship and pain Into Kino’s life, and he is ignorant of the evil associated with the pearl until the end of the novella.
The pearl that Kino once believes to be glorious evolves into something more dverse as the novella progresses, corrupting many people with greed and causing many unfortunate events to occur. Kino is ignorant of how sinister the pearl really is due to the pearl corrupting his Judgment with greed as he believes selling the pearl will benefit his family. The Pearl shows Just how people can instantly change when blessed with wealth or power and become corrupt, Just like how Kino’s judgment became corrupt with greed, and ultimately, destroyed many of his existing relationships.
In the beginning of the novella, the pearl symbolizes hope, prosperity, nd a new beginning for Kino’s family. When Kino first sees the pearl, he envisions it as a blessing that will benefit his family. Kino perceives the pearl as magnificent and an insurance that things will become better for the family. “And to Kino the secret melody of the maybe pearl broke clear and beautiful, rich and warm and lovely, glowing and gloating and triumphant. In the surface of the great pearl he could see dream forms,” (Steinbeck 19).
When Kino lays his eyes upon the pearl, not only is it shown to be grandiose, but it also gives off a comforting melody considered beautiful and glowing. Kino sees this as assurance that the pearl will bring good fortune upon his family since it must have great value due to its magnificence. The pearl becomes a symbol of hope for Kino as he believes It will bring prosperity to his family. Kino anticipates him and Juana becoming officially married, getting new clothes, a rifle, and securing an education for Coyotlto.
Kino sees the pearl as a new beginning for his family as Its wealth will bring great fortune. Kino’s Intentions are good as he envisions the pearl will allow his family to have the luxuries they never get to have, and more Importantly, allow Coyotlto to have an education. This Is extremely Important to Kino since Coyotlto will become the first “formally’ educated person within the oppressed Indian community. Kino longs for his family to be free of the prejudice that binds them from becoming nothing more than a member of the lowest social class in society.
When Kino looks at the pearl, he sees dreams of the future. and the pearl becomes a symbol ot taitn This leads to now the pearl is symbolic ot a new beginning for the Indian community as it represents freedom from oppression. The Indian community that Kino lives in is segregated from a dominant Hispanic ommunity who discriminates the Indians, which is shown when the doctor refuses to treat Coyotito for his poison. While at first Kino sees the pearl as an opportunity to treat his son, this develops into an opportunity for Coyotito to gain an education in school.
The pearl will allow Coyotito to escape oppression by gaining an education, which will benefit the entire community as he can educate others as well. Through this, the Indian community can finally be equal to their oppressors in terms of education, and can possibly escape the continuous cycle of oppression and discrimination. However, the good intentions that Kino possesses becomes corrupt through the greed that is slowly spreading through himself and the entire community. As the novella progresses, the pearl’s symbolism evolves as it now represents greed, evil, and destruction.
The pearl begins to show the inherent evil within people as a consequence from greed. As news reaches La Paz of the pearl’s discovery, it brings out the greed that it deeply imbedded within people’s hearts. The pearl makes the people of La Paz envious of Kino and greed corrupts them as they want the pearl for themselves. One instance of this is when the doctor hypocritically goes to visit Kino and Juana to see Coyotito even though in the beginning of the novella, he refuses to do so. The doctor wants to create a false perception of himself in which he is a hero to Juana and Kino so that he could get pearl as payment.
The doctor does this by convincing Kino that the poison will relapse, and gives Coyotito a medicinal capsule with powder. This medication, however, causes Coyotito to become gravely ill. Before, the doctor didn’t have any interest in Kino or his family and discards them for they were poor, but once news of the pearl’s discovery spreads, he is willing to put Coyotito’s life in danger to obtain the pearl. This shows how the pearl brings out greed from the doctor, who would go to great evil lengths, even poisoning a child, in order to gain the pearl and its wealth.
Unfortunately, the pearl also affects the neighbors of Kino’s community. These neighbors were living simple, peaceful lives just as Kino and Juana. However, the pearl disrupts this peacefulness within the community as more and more people gain interest in the pearl. “Every man suddenly became related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino’s pearl went into the dreams… the needs, the lusts, the hungers, of everyone… o that he became curiously every man’s enemy. The news stirred up something infinitely black and evil in the town,” (23). The news of the pearl causes many of Kino’s neighbors to become greedy and envious.
On more than one occasion, Kino’s neighbors discuss what they would do with the pearl, displaying their obvious envy. It is because of Jealousy that the Hispanics from the stone city assault Kino and attempt to rob him of the pearl. While greed corrupts Kino’s neighbors and members from the Hispanic community, Kino as well is affected by greed as the seeds of avarice begin to sprout within him. With the dreams and visions from the pearl that Kino envisions, avidity becomes apparent as well. The pearl promises freedom from oppression, but with that promise comes the constant longing for wealth.
When the pearl buyers offer money that Kino’s neighbors consider to be a vast amount, Kino refuses to take it. Kino’s selfishness becomes stronger as ne now wants much more money tor the pearl. Even when members ot the dominant Hispanic race assault him numerous times at night, Kino still wishes to sell the pearl at the capital, despite Juana pleading to discard it. This attachment to the pearl only causes much pain and suffering in Kino’s life, and once he realizes that destruction and evil associated with the pearl, it is too late for him as he loses many of the beloved relationships he once cherished.
At the end of the novella, the connotation associated with the pearl is revealed to be sinister and malevolent. The pearl, while itself is not evil, causes many external forces to afflict pain and grief upon Kino and his family. One way the pearl does so is by straining the once peaceful relationship between Kino and Juana. Kino and Juana ere so close to each other that they did not need to communicate with each other through conversation; they understood each other so well and were living a simple, yet tranquil life.
The pearl causes the destruction of this tranquil relationship as Kino’s attachment to the pearl grows. This obsession eventually causes Kino to beat Juana for attempting to throw away the pearl into the ocean. In a way, Kino loses some self-respect and integrity as his anger slowly dissipates into disgust as he realizes what he has done. His obsession with the pearl destroys his once serene arriage, bringing out the greed and aggressiveness within Kino. This infatuation also affects the lives and ultimately, the safety of Coyotito and Juana.
Kino’s enthusiasm with selling the pearl puts the lives of his family in danger as they depart on a Journey up north to the cities. While doing so, three men are tracking down Kino in order to catch and kill him for murdering a man and fleeing from La Paz. Even Juan warns him of the unknown perils, but Kino ignores the warnings and decides to take the Journey anyway. The pearl and its promise for wealth is corrupting Kino as he nsists on placing his family’s lives in danger in order to sell the pearl. While other can see the affect the pearl is having on Kino and the community, Kino is ignorant to the pearl’s true nature.
This Journey to sell the pearl, however, ends up destroying the most beloved treasure in Kino and Juana’s lives: Coyotito. As Juana and Coyotito hide in a cave, Kino once again has to kill in order to protect the pearl. However, Coyotito cries, and Kino is too late in stopping the rifleman from firing at Coyotito. Kino’s compulsion to sell the pearl ends up killing Coyotito, finally showing Kino how alevolent and sinister the pearl is. In the beginning of the novella, Kino has plans for Coyotito to live a successful life filled with education.
Kino’s good intentions, however, become corrupt by greed as he is willing to go to great lengths to sell the pearl, even by putting his family’s lives in danger. At this point, Kino finally realizes the pearl for what it really is. When Kino first sees the pearl, he perceives it to be grand, magnificent, and perfect. But now, when Kino looks at the pearl, “… the pearl was ugly: it was gray, like a malignant growth. And Kino heard the music of the pearl, istorted and insane,” (89). This shows Just how the symbolic value of the value changes from the beginning of the novella since Kino now views the pearl to be ugly and horrifying.
The once beautiful song from within the pearl is now sinister and melancholy. Kino finally realizes that the pearl is an embodiment of greed and destruction, and has done nothing but destroy his life. Within the reflection of the pearl, Kino sees only tragedy, such as Coyotito’s dead body and the body of the men Kino kills in order to protect the pearl. By the end of the novella, the pearl embodies he greed that exists within each person’s heart The greed and enw that results from the pearl symbolizes Just how corrupt people can be when given or shown power.
This greed causes much suffering for Kino and his family throughout the entire novella as the once benevolent pearl turns out to be malevolent. Throughout the entire novella, the symbolism of the pearl changes from a symbol of opulence and ambition into a symbol of malevolence, greed, and destruction. In the beginning of The Pearl, when Kino discovers the pearl, he believes it to be a symbol of hope and a new beginning. Kino believes that the pearl will bring good fortune to his family since once he sells it, they can have the luxuries they never did before.