The Pearl by John Steinbeck : Review

The Pearl by John Steinbeck was on the recommended reading list when I was at school.

It’s the story of a pearl fisherman whose life changes forever when he discovers a large and valuable pearl.

Kino makes his living by diving for pearls. His life is tranquil. He lives with his wife Juana and their baby son Coyotito. They have a simple, peaceful life, existing from day to day.

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Then, one day, a scorpion bites Coyotito. Kino and Juana are afraid for their baby son but they don’t have enough money for a doctor to visit. So, instead, Kino goes to see the doctor and offers to pay with seed pearls. But the doctor turns up his nose at the pearls saying that the payment is not enough.

When Kino returns home, Coyotito is already recovering but fate is about to intervene.

Kino discovers a large, precious pearl which opens up a chance for him to dream of a better future for his baby son.

Soon, the whole village is talking about Kino’s discovery. But his good fortune puts Kino and his family in danger.

Fate in The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Was it the scorpion that triggered misfortune? Or was it the pearl? Was it Kino’s failure to kill the scorpion on time? Or was his mistake simply to dream of a better future? Was he the victim of others? Or did he trigger his own misfortunes?

It is only when Kino returns the pearl to the ocean that the possibility of rediscovering tranquility is restored.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck was one of a number of short novels that we studied at school. On the Leaving Cert syllabus, the play that we studied was Shakespeare’s King Lear. Kino’s story echoes the famous words spoken by Gloucester in that play:

“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, They kill us for their sport.”

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