The Pearl (novel)

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The Pearl
First edition (US)
Author John Steinbeck
Illustrator José Clemente Orozco
Cover artist Cover Design: Micheal Ian Kaye, Artist: Ross Mcdonald
Country United States, Mexico
Language English, Spanish
Publisher The Viking Press (US)
William Heinemann (UK)
Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico and rest of Latin America)
Publication date
1947
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0-14-017737-X
OCLC 27697348
First edition title page

The Pearl is a novella by American author John Steinbeck, first published in 1947. It is the story of a pearl diver, Kino, and explores man's nature as well as greed, defiance of societal norms, and evil. Steinbeck's inspiration was a Mexican folk tale from La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, which he had heard in a visit to the formerly pearl-rich region in 1940.[1] In 1947, it was adapted into a Mexican film named La perla and in 1987 into a cult Kannada movie Ondu Muttina Kathe. The story is one of Steinbeck's most popular books and has been widely used in high school classes.[2] The Pearl is sometimes considered a parable.

Summary

The Pearl, which takes place in La Paz, Mexico, begins with a description of the seemingly idyllic family life of Kino, his wife Juana and their infant son, Coyotito. Kino watches as Coyotito sleeps, but sees a scorpion crawl down the rope that holds the hanging box where Coyotito lies. Kino attempts to catch the scorpion, but Coyotito bumps the rope and the scorpion falls on him. Although Kino kills the scorpion, it still stings Coyotito. Juana and Kino, accompanied by their neighbors, go to see the local doctor, who refuses to treat Coyotito because Kino cannot pay.

Kino and Juana leave the doctors and take Coyotito down near the sea, where Juana uses a seaweed poultice on Coyotito's shoulder, which is now swollen. Kino dives for oysters from his canoe, attempting to find pearls. He finds a very large oyster which, when Kino opens it, yields an immense pearl, which Kino therefore dubs "The Pearl of the World". Kino puts back his head and howls, causing the other pearl divers to look up and race toward Kino's canoe.

The news that Kino has found an immense pearl travels fast through La Paz. The doctor who refused to treat Coyotito decides to visit Kino. Kino's neighbors begin to feel bitter toward him for his good fortune, but neither Kino nor Juana realize this feeling they have engendered. Juan Tomas, the brother of Kino, asks him what he will do with his money, and he envisions getting married to Juana in a church and dressing Coyotito in a yachting cap and sailor suit. He claims that he will send Coyotito to school and buy a rifle for himself. The local priest visits and tells Kino to remember to give thanks and to pray for guidance. The doctor also visits, and although Coyotito seems to be healing, the doctor insists that Coyotito still faces danger and treats him. Kino tells the doctor that he will pay him once he sells his pearl, and the doctor attempts to discern where the pearl is located (Kino has buried it in the corner of his hut). That night, a thief attempts to break into Kino's hut, but Kino drives him away. Juana tells Kino that the pearl will destroy them, but Kino insists that the pearl is their one chance and that tomorrow they will sell it.


Kino's neighbors wonder what they would do if they had found the pearl, and suggest giving it as a present to the Pope, buying Masses for the souls of his family, and distributing it among the poor of La Paz. Kino goes to sell his pearl, accompanied by his neighbors, but the pearl dealer only offers a thousand pesos when Kino believes that he deserves fifty thousand. Although other dealers inspect the pearl and give similar prices, Kino refuses their offer and decides to go to the capital to sell it there. That night, Kino is attacked by more thieves, and Juana once again reminds Kino that the pearl is evil. However, Kino vows that he will not be cheated, for he is a man.

Later that night, Juana attempts to take the pearl and throw it into the ocean, but Kino finds her and beats her for doing so. While outside, a group of men accost Kino and knock the pearl from his hand. Juana watches from a distance, and sees Kino approach her, limping with another man whose throat Kino has slit. Juana finds the pearl, and they decide that they must go away even if the murder was in self-defense. Kino finds that his canoe has been damaged and their house was torn up and the outside set afire. Kino and Juana stay with Juan Tomas and his wife, Apolonia, where they hide for the next day before setting out for the capital that night.

Kino and Juana travel that night, and rest during the day. When Kino believes that he is being followed, the two hide and Kino sees several bighorn sheep trackers who pass by him. Kino and Juana escape into the mountains, where Juana and Coyotito hide in the cave while Kino, taking his clothes off so that no one will see his white clothing. The trackers think that they hear something when they hear Coyotito crying, but decide that it is merely a coyote pup. After a tracker shoots in the direction of the cries, Kino attacks the three trackers, killing all three of them. Kino can hear nothing but the cry of death, for he soon realizes that Coyotito is dead from that first shot. Juana and Kino return to La Paz. Kino carries a rifle stolen from the one of the trackers he killed, while Juana carries the dead Coyotito. The two approach the gulf, and Kino, who now sees the image of Coyotito with his head blown off in the pearl, throws it into the ocean.

Setting

Steinbeck began writing the story as a movie script[3] in 1944, and first published it as a short story called "The Pearl of the World" in Woman's Home Companion in December 1945.[4] The original publication is also sometimes listed as "The Pearl of La Paz".[5] He expanded it to novella length and published it under the name The Pearl by Viking Press in 1947.[4] As he was writing the novella version, he was frequently travelling to Mexico where the film version,[6] co-written with Jack Wagner,[4] was being filmed. The film was also released by RKO in 1947 as a co-promotion with the book.[6]

The Pearl was loosely adapted in 2001 for a film directed by Alfredo Zacharias and starring Lukas Haas and Richard Harris which was released directly to video in 2005.[4]

Reception and analysis

The book received initial positive response from publications such as The New York Times and Library Journal.[7]

The story is one of Steinbeck's most popular and famous books and has been widely used in high school and middle school classes.[2]

Jackson Benson writes that The Pearl was heavily influenced by Steinbeck's interest in the philosophy of Carl Jung.[5] Steinbeck wrote that he created the story of The Pearl to address the themes of "human greed, materialism, and the inherent worth of a thing."[3]

The Fleming & John song "The Pearl" was based on this story.

The American composer Andrew Boysen's Concerto for Trombone and Wind Symphony (2004) was inspired by The Pearl.[8]

References

  1. ^ The Pearls of La Paz, Kristian Beadle, Pacific Standard Magazine, July 6, 2010[dead link]
  2. ^ a b Simmonds, Roy S. "Steinbeck's The Pearl: A Preliminary Textual Study. ", Steinbeck Quarterly 22.01-02 (Winter/Spring 1989): 16-34.
  3. ^ a b Hayashi, Tetsumaro (1993). A New Study Guide to Steinbeck's Major Works With Critical Explications. Scarecrow Press. pp. 174–. ISBN 9780810826113. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Railsback, Brian E.; Meyer, Michael J. (2006). A John Steinbeck Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 284–. ISBN 9780313296697. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Benson, Jackson J. (1990). The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: Critical Essays With a Checklist to Steinbeck Criticism. Duke University Press. pp. 143–. ISBN 9780822309949. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Steinbeck Quarterly 1989, Vol. 22, No. 01-02". Ball State University. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  7. ^ Schultz, Jeffrey D.; Li, Luchen (2009-01-01). Critical companion to John Steinbeck. Infobase Publishing. pp. 167–. ISBN 9781438108506. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Boysen, Jr., Andrew (2008). Concerto for Trombone and Wind Symphony (Liner Notes). Nic Orovich, University of New Hampshire Wind Symphony. Belchertown, MA: Harrison Digital Productions. p. 1. OCLC 315826087. 

Further reading