The Pearl Literary Essay

Category: The Pearl
Last Updated: 25 May 2023
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“But in the song there was a secret little inner song, hardly perceptible, but always there, sweet and secret and clinging, almost hiding in the counter-melody and this was the song of the pearl that might be, for every shell thrown in the basket might contain a pearl” (Steinbeck 17). This is something that might forever deceive us, because of its 'sweet' counter-melody. This is the deception of money. It still happens today- people confuse money with power, because in some way, money can lead to power, and it's not always a good thing.

Money is not the answer to everything, as it can serve to beguile people, confusing them between what they think they want, and what they really do want or need. In the book 'The Pearl' by John Steinbeck, Kino became blinded by the outside sheen of the pearl. “The shell was partly open, for the overhang protected this ancient oyster, and in the lip-like muscle Kino saw a ghostly gleam, and then the shell closed down” (Steinbeck 18).

This 'ghostly gleam' is the power of the pearl, and it started to delude Kino little by little, starting from the point of where he had first seen the pearl to where it had cost him something very dear to him- his son, Coyotito. Kino originally saw the pearl as a practical method to improve his and his family's life, however later, he saw it only as a method of survival, and in the end, Coyotito dies because of this. Only at the end had Kino realized the power of the pearl, but this realization was of no help at the end, as everything was done. Money really is not everything, and in Kino's case, it had caused death.

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Take the lottery, for instance. Everyone wants to win the lottery- the chance to win it big and be rich, and not have to live tight and counting every single penny. If you hit the jackpot, you could simply live off the interest and not have to worry about a single thing. Now, applying this to 'The Pearl,' Kino and Juana had basically nothing; they lived in a hut that had a dirt floor, and this hut could have been destroyed in one strong gust of wind. Their house would have been blown away, and then what? And it's not only them who live that way. Members of their entire community live just as Kino does, and they are just as content.

Their village of La Paz was all pretty much dirt poor, and if even one of its members hit it big, it would represent a huge thing for their entire wellbeing. With the pearl, Kino saw not only wealth, but a healthy and prospering future, especially for Coyotito. It would have also been a big event for the entire village. The thing is, Kino only saw these things through the pearl. What does that mean? It means that he wasn't able to see a happy future for him and his family without the pearl. What does that mean? It means that without the pearl, they were still basically nothing. But Kino's face shone with prophecy. 'My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know-- he will know and through him we will know'” (Steinbeck 26). 'Through him we will know,' Kino says this, and when he says this, he means that only through Coyotito can they know. Doesn't that represent a LOT for them and the community? What if these things did not in fact come to pass? Then they would have to start over, and live with these times of incognizance playing over and over in their heads.

There is a lot hanging on the pearl- it's either all or nothing. That's what the pearl seemed to represent, and in the end, they got nothing. Coyotito was a large part of their life, and what they wanted from the pearl had a lot to do with him. This time, they would have to start over without Coyotito. And also, this would especially hurt Kino. Even if nothing particularly dreadful came to pass, Kino would probably feel horrible about his ignorance and how he got his and his family's hopes up- all for nothing. He would realize how the pearl had deluded him until this moment, and would live in embarrassment for the rest of his life. In the pearl he saw how they were dressed- Juana in a shawl stiff with newness and a new skirt, and from under the long skirt Kino could see that she wore shoes. It was in the pearl- the picture growing there. He himself was dressed in new white clothes, and he carried a new hat- not of straw but of fine black felt- and he too wore shoes- not sandals but shoes that laced. But Coyotito- he was the one- he wore a blue sailor suit from the United States and a little yachting cap such as Kino had seen once when a pleasure boat put into the estuary.

All of these things Kino saw in the lucent pearl and he said, 'We will have new clothes. '” (Steinbeck 24). These wishes are material wishes, wanting new clothes, and wanting to be married. To think, the first thing to want to do when you get rich is to get married and get new clothes. Doesn't that inform us, the reader, of Kino and Juana's current monetary situation? These things, wanting new clothes, wanting to get married, wanting their son to go to school.. these are all things that he would not be able to do without the pearl, and these are things that most likely all of their village people could not do.

And then, near the end, Kino's instincts change rapidly from human like to animal like, living only on his instincts and guts. “Against the sky in the cave entrance Juana could see that Kino was taking off his white clothes, for dirty and ragged though they were they would show up against the dark night. His own brown skin was better protection for him” (Steinbeck 83). Camouflaging, not exactly something that we would all worry about on a daily basis. The fact that Kino takes what he wears into account against the enemy is something to think about, and it really shows how his instincts change.

At this point, survival was the only thing he worried about. And lastly, Kino had not taken Juana's warning about the pearl earlier. Juana had seen through the pearl- it had not deceived her. “Evil faces peered from it into his eyes, and he saw the light of burning. And in the surface of the pearl he saw the frantic eyes of the man in the pool. And in the surface of the pearl he saw Coyotito lying in the little cave with the top of his head shot away. And the pearl was gly; it was gray like a malignant growth. And Kino heard the music of the pearl, distorted and insane” (Steinbeck 89).

This shows that only at the end had he realized the actual appearance of the pearl. It had the power to enrich their lives and it also had the power to destroy what was important to them, and Kino had only seen the possible good outcomes of the pearl, and had hence been blinded. And by saying that he had been blinded does not mean that he had lost his sight; rather that everything else had gone over his head, or rather, in one ear and out the other. He paid no heed to any possible bad outcomes with the pearl, and basically walked around with his eyes closed.

We can all relate, but this is what the pearl had done to him, and realizing all of this at the end would not help. Coyotito had died, and there was nothing Kino could do to bring him or anything else back. His ignorance had cost him everything. The quote with which this essay had begun had basically summed up what Kino saw in this pearl- he saw a sweet outer and all of these wonderful prospects that could have come with the pearl, and also how he failed to see the potential risks. The pearl represented money and evil and greed and all of the things that people today still are oblivious to.

Monetary troubles back then are still evident now, and Kino made a wrong turn that most, if not all of us had or will take some day. However, our mistakes might not cost so much as Kino's; in return for Kino's wrong turn, he lost his son, Coyotito, and instead gained a lifetime of guilt and regret. He himself changed, and not many of us would say that he changed for the better. In fact, no one can say if he changed for the worse, either. “And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared” (Steinbeck 90).

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The Pearl Literary Essay. (2017, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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