I'm citing evidence from The Pearl about this theme: People are never really free--their lives are determined by outside forces.

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Steinbeck illustrates this philosophy, naturalism, allegorically early in Chapter 1, describing an ant trying to escape a trap while a detached God watches. 

Among the forces that control the lives of Kino's people are imperialism, illustrated by the doctor in Chapter 1 who considers them animals, and ignorance, which puts the people at the mercy of those like the doctor - "...he could not take...

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