How does the novel The Pearl relate to modern times and relationships?

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ktmagalia's profile pic

ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

John Steinbeck's pearl, a jewel, a precious desired symbol of "unblemished perfection", is indeed a symbol relating to today. Of course, for the main characters of the novel, Kino and Juana, it represented a freedom from their oppression and an opportunity for survival.  But of course, this coveted treasure becomes tainted by greed and evil.

Treasures today differ from that of nature's pearls, but come in a more artificial and material form.  However, do the material items coveted by so many people today negatively impact society?  Think about how many people have overextended themselves buying the dream house, the big car, and the tropical vacation.  And how many of these people are nearing financial ruin and health as they fight to keep these items, mere items, "pearls" that could easily been cast back into the sea.  Unfortunately, just as in the case of Steinbeck's novel, many people lose sight of what is truly important: health, family, and friends.

See the history of the "oldest known gem", the pearl.

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lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

The theme of this novella, a parable, is very pertinent to modern times. Be careful what you ask for. In this case, the motive was good. Kino and Juana prayed that they would find a pearl to use to heal their son who had been bitten by a scorpion. The doctor refused to treat the son because the couple had no money. They find a "pearl of great price" (which is a Biblical reference) but as Juana soon intuitively figures out, society (including her husband Kino) has turned the pearl into something evil because it is so valuable. They covet the pearl. Kino comes to covet the pearl, not because it can cure his son, but because it will make him respected and rich. So the pearl morphs from something that could have been good into something that winds up causing the death of the very son they are trying to save.

Kino has made the pearl an idol and he did what the Bible warns against doing - "storing up treasures on earth" (he constantly tried to hide it, bury it, etc., = storing it up). It was not only taken away from him, it caused him the worst harm imaginable.

In modern times, we, too, have turned our possessions into "idols." The Bible does not say that money is evil, but "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil" - so if we love our possessions more than the things we are supposed to love, like our families, our relationships, the important things, it is not going to turn out well for us because in the end, we cannot take our idols, our earthly goods, with us into the next life or, if you don't believe in a next life, then what good will riches be in the grave?

In modern times, it is very possible that a poor family would not have money for medical treatment. Perhaps this might lead them to steal. Or do drugs. Or participate in some other sort of illegal activity to get the money. Perhaps they might justify it, like Kino - "I'm only doing this to save my son." Perhaps the wife might say, "Get rid of that pearl, it is evil" and the husband would reply, "I'm the man. I'm in charge."

There are other modern comparisons - for example, Juan Tomas, the brother, takes his family responsibilities seriously because he agrees to hide Kino and Juana.

See what you think: read about it here on eNotes.

mkcapen1's profile pic

mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

In John Steinbeck's small novel The Pearl, the story relates to humankind's behavior of greed and the way that greed can destroy a person.  People often believe that if they win the lottery that they will be free from worries and stress.  In a sense the pearl is Kino's lottery ticket that has won him great wealth.  The friends and neighbors come to visit, suddenly doors are open to him that were not before (the doctor) and he is treated like a king.  He begins to have grander dreams.  Greed also costs him everything he holds dear when the people try and trick him and then rob him and even are willing to kill him for the pearl.

Many times we hear about lottery winners who end up divorced, their family relationships break up, and they end up having nothing in a short period.  They end up even worse off than they were before they had won the lottery.

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