How can a new or beginning reader have a full understanding of  "The Pearl "?

Expert Answers
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To begin, approach Steinbeck's novella as a parable. A parable is a story that has an embedded moral lesson. The story is simple but has levels of meaning. Try to find what the story means to you, as Steinbeck himself advises in his introduction:

"If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it."

The basic plot is this: a poor fisherman finds a priceless pearl, "The Pearl of the World." His thought is to improve the lives of his family and hopes that the wealth will buy them all peace and happiness. However, the idea of the money becomes so important that it ruins his life. Convinced, finally, by his wife that the pearl has purchased nothing but misery, eventually Kino throws it into the sea.

Be on the look out for the rich symbolism of the story. For example, the pearl becomes symbolic of Kino's soul. He acknowledges,

"This pearl has become my soul. If I give it up, I shall lose my soul."

Other symbols include the doctor and the pearl buyers, who are personifications of greed.

Look for realism as well, for even though the story is fanciful on some levels, at other points the descriptions are concrete. For example,

"the scorpion moved delicately down the rope toward the box...It stopped, and its tail rose over its back in little jerks and the curved thorn on the tail's end glistened."