The Pearl Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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Themes in John Steinbeck's The Pearl. I need to know the most important ones.

Themes most widely accepted of Steinbeck's The Pearl include the dangers of greed, corruption, pride, power, and obsession. 


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hsato eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think the most important theme in The Pearl is Obsession.

In Chapter II, Kino dives for pearls in a desperate attempt to find one of value with which to pay the doctor to treat Coyotito for the scorpion sting that could kill him. Instead, Coyotito’s condition improves, the result of Juana’s treating his wound with an “old remedy,” and Kino finds not just a valuable pearl but “the Pearl of the World.” With these two events, Kino’s life changes dramatically. In the magnificence of the huge, perfect pearl, Kino envisions a future unlike any he had ever dared to imagine; looking into the glowing surface of the pearl, he sees “dreams form”—new clothes for his family, his and Juana’s wedding in the church, a harpoon and a rifle for himself, and most of all, an education for Coyotito. Kino’s contentment with the “Song of the Family” is now lost in “the music of the pearl” that sings with “triumph” in him.
Becoming a rich man changes Kino’s life immediately in ways he does not anticipate as “shadowy figures” attempt to steal the pearl. He is attacked, his home is invaded, and he kills a man in self-defense when he is attacked a second time. When Juana tries to throw the pearl back into the sea, believing that it is evil and will destroy them, Kino beats her with animal savagery and then is sickened by what he has done to her. For Kino, possessing the pearl with all its promises has become an obsession; he pursues it until his and Juana’s old life is destroyed and their baby is dead.
Despite the initial death and destruction the pearl brings into his and Juana’s life, Kino will not give it up. Rather than sell it to the corrupt pearl buyers for essentially nothing, he chooses to defy the system and sell it in the capital for a fair price; after his house has been burned and his canoe destroyed, he still refuses to sell the pearl in La Paz. “This pearl has become my soul,” Kino says. “If I give it up I shall lose my soul.” Leaving the old life behind, he takes Juana and Coyotito on a journey to the capital, leaving the trail and fleeing into the mountains when they are tracked by three men who will kill them for the pearl. Kino prevails over the trackers, killing them all, but his obsession with the pearl ends only when he realizes Coyotito has died, the innocent victim of a rifle shot. Returning to the village with Juana by his side, Kino throws the pearl into the sea.

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krounds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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All the themes already mentioned will get you on your way to writing a great essay, but also consider the Price of Wisdom.

Juana understands far sooner than Kino the danger in possessing the pearl. “It will destroy us all,” she cries out to him. “Even our son.” After Kino and Juana’s way of life has been obliterated—their house burned and Kino’s canoe smashed—Juan Tomás attempts to save them from further destruction. “There is a devil in this pearl,” he tells Kino. “You should have sold it and passed on the devil. Perhaps you can still sell it and buy peace for yourself.” Kino refuses, clinging to the pearl although he perceives it differently: “I have it … And I will keep it … now it is my misfortune and my life and I will keep it.” When Kino is...

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amysor | Student

The Pearl by John Steinbeck depicts many themes, but the major one is greed. To put it shortly, greed is what drive Kino to set the stage for this novella. Kino finds a pearl, and knows that he will make a lot of money with it. The pearl buyers tried to buy the pearl for little value. Other men tried to steal, and even kill, for the pearl. Juana knew the Pearl was going to bring nothing but harm, but to throw away the pearl. Kino did not listen, because of his greed, he dedicated his families who life to the pearl and its promise. In the end, Kinos greed got the best of him, and resulted in his son, Coyotito's death.

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