The Pearl by John Steinbeck

A review of the classic literary novella The Pearl by John Steinbeck.

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The Pearl is a novella written by notable, Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. The book follows Kino, a pearl diver, and his struggles to save the life of his son, Coyotito, who has been stung by a scorpion. Kino is unable to pay for the medical treatment needed, but as luck would have it, he manages to find the mother of all pearls on one of his dives and intends to sell it at the local pearl auction to raise the much-needed funds. Unfortunately for Kino and his son, the auction is somewhat less than above board and he can’t get the money that the pearl is worth from them. Kino decides to head to capital to sell the pearl for its real value.

Kino’s journey is not as smooth sailing as he would like. He’s almost constantly hounded by people who want to take the pearl from him for themselves, a superstitious wife who thinks that the pearl is cursed to bring them nothing but bad luck, and the ticking clock of their dying son.

I wanted to refresh my memory of the story before I reviewed it as it’s been a while since I’ve read it. I read the book again, and then did a bit of reading online about it. The Pearl appears to be quite a common choice amongst schools to give to their students. It’s how I was introduced to it in the first place. I still recall the image of the final scenes, of my teacher uncontrollably sobbing as she read the closing parts and the feelings that it invoked in me as a child. Steinbeck did a fantastic job of evoking the feeling of desperation and determination that he’s experiencing, and showcases how far he was willing to go in order to achieve his goal. Steinbeck said that he wrote The Pearl with themes of “human greed, materialism, and the inherent worth of a thing,” and these come across very clearly. It is clear to everybody else that the pearl isn’t worth the trouble that it’s causing the family. Still, Kino carries on with his mission to the detriment of everybody he purports to care for.

The Pearl is certainly not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as a child, and still enjoy it as an adult. And, at around 90 pages, you can read it in an afternoon. I think it’s a novella that is definitely worth your time.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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