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In one of the first paragraphs of The Pearl, John Steinbeck gives us a vivid description of the island setting for this novella.
Kino awakened in the near dark. The stars still shone and the day had drawn only a pale wash of light in the lower sky to the east. The roosters had been crowing for some time, and the early pigs were already beginning their ceaseless turning of twigs and bits of wood to see whether anything to eat had been overlooked. Outside the brush house in the tuna clump, a covey of little birds chittered and flurried with their wings.
Imagery is language used to appeal to the senses, and this passage contains images which appeal to nearly all of the senses.
- Sight - dark turning to light, shining stars
- Sound - roosters crowing, pigs rooting, birds moving
- Touch - roughness of wood and twigs, house made of brush
- Smell - animals, fresh air
A few sentences later, Kino hears "the little splash of morning waves on the beach." This adds taste (salt), as well as enhancing the other senses already named.
A different kind of imagery can be found in this paragraph found later in the novella:
A town is a thing like a colonial animal. A town has a nervous system and a head and shoulders and feet. A town is a thing separate from all other towns, so that there are no two towns alike. And a town has a whole emotion. How news travels through a town is a mystery not easily to be solved. News seems to move faster than small boys can scramble and dart to tell it, faster than women can call it over the fences.
In this paragraph Steinbeck gives us an obvious simile, comparing the town to an animal, with all the necessary parts of an animal. This is also a kind of personification, giving human qualities (in this case thinking and walking) to something that is non-human or non-living (the town).
The Pearl is an allegory and full of imagery, including the pervasive image of Kino and his family (and the other natives) as animals, both because of the way they are treated and because of their fear of humans (the people in the village).
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