The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

First line: Kino awakened in the near dark.

My thoughts: I’ve been meaning to say a few things about this slim but packed book. This may be required reading in US schools, but here in the Philippines, I’ve seen more than a few of old browning copies languishing in school libraries.

Which is a pity. Steinbeck has written a beautiful parable of what greed can do to even the kindest, most upright man. It traces how in your quest to find the “solution” and eventually have the “solution” in your grasp, that you slowly realize that you have subconsciously turned into the very type of person you despise.

More importantly, I feel that it brings us back to basics, in a rather dramatic fashion – pointing out the obvious: that money can never take the place of a happy family and a sense of community.

Two paragraphs sum up the transformation of the pearl and Kino:
” … there it lay, the great pearl, perfect as the moon. It captured the light and refined it, and gave it back in silver incandescence. In the surface of the great pearl he could see dream forms.” (p. 25)

“And the pearl was ugly; it was gray, like a malignant growth” (p. 117)

I read this in a day, but what I got from it is invaluable. Good and evil both reside in men, cliche as it may sound, and what one must do to fight the evil often means learning just how ugly one’s soul can be.

It does also raise more questions: Are things sometimes better left alone? Does this mean we shouldn’t strive for a better life, and become complacent? How does one deal with temptation, when one is so ill equipped to do so?

Last line: And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.

{Originally here.}

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