Posts tagged ‘classics’

The Pearl

She knew there was murder in him.

The Pearl is a famous novella by John Steinbeck. It features a man named Kino, his wife Juana, and his son Coyotito. They are a poor family, but happy. Kino dives for pearls, while Juana bakes meals and minds Coyotito. One day, though, Coyotito is stung by a scorpion! The family wants the help of the doctor, but they are too poor to afford him. Kino goes diving for pearls, and he finds a magnificent pearl. It is hailed as the great Pearl of the World, and Kino and Juana believe it is worth a lot of money and is the answer to all of their problems. Of course, in reality, their troubles have just started…

Their problems go from bad to worse:

  • The doctor, who they can now pay, realizes that Coyotito has recovered from the scorpion bite. he wants more money, though, so he poisons Coyotito under the premise that it’s a cure for the relapse that he says, lying, that Coyotito will suffer. 
  • The pearl dealers, working to together, decide to cheat Kino out of the money for the pearl. 
  • The pearl causes Kino to become possessive and nasty, even hitting and kicking Juana.
  • Kino then kills a man at night who, he suspects is coming to steal the pearl.

Kino and Juana then attempt to go to the capital, to escape the corrupt citizens of the town and its law enforcement. They bring a few essential supplies, the pearl, and Coyotito. In a complex situation involving a group of trackers, Kino, and Juana and Coyotito hiding in a cave at night, Kino grabs a rifle from one of the trackers and shoots them. He then discovers Coyotito’s head has been half blown-off and that he is dead from the tracker’s shot. He and Juana then go back to the town, after having thrown the pearl back into the water. All is forgiven by the townspeople, and they decide to live in the town again.

Kino, due to the pearl, ends up worse off than he started. His son is dead. His house has burnt down. He has to reforge connections with the other villagers. There are several different problems with this story. The first is the confusion of Coyotito’s death. It requires several rereads to see whether the tracker or Kino shot Coyotito. The second problem is the one-dimensionality of the stories characters. The only character with any depth in him is Kino. No one else has much depth, and even Kino is not that interesting to read about. It really reads more like a fairy tale or a folk tale than a novel or novella. The third problem is the moral of the story. For something that so clearly is supposed to be folk tale of some sort, the moral is not so evident. “Money is bad?” “Be careful what you wish for?” “The world should adopt a barter system?” “It’s a hard life being poor?” “Poor people shouldn’t try to improve their lots?” It’s just not obvious. This is the sort of story that would be better as an oral tale of a bedtime story of old (the bloody Grimms…) than it is as a novel!

My Rating: 38/100

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April 25, 2009 at 5:20 PM 5 comments


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