What are the social issues found in The Pearl by John Steinbeck?

The social issues of poverty, crime, systemic greed, and official corruption are found in The Pearl. These issues begin to have an impact on Kino and his family as soon as they have something worth stealing.

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The conservative political commentator and humorist P. J. O'Rourke has asserted that one does not solve the problem of poverty by giving money to poor people. Although this is a point most often made by conservatives, there is widespread agreement across the political spectrum that social issues will often prevent...

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The conservative political commentator and humorist P. J. O'Rourke has asserted that one does not solve the problem of poverty by giving money to poor people. Although this is a point most often made by conservatives, there is widespread agreement across the political spectrum that social issues will often prevent a poor person from benefiting from sudden wealth, such as a lottery win. The pearl Kino finds is his lottery win, and it brings him nothing but misery, due to the corrupt society in which he lives.

The pearl buyers represent the greed of a capitalist system which will never allow the pearl divers to receive a fair price. This system marks Kino out as a victim the moment he has something of value, and he is constantly pursued by thieves. The doctor, in particular, symbolizes a system in which life is dependent on money. It is ironic that, of the two main events at the beginning of the story, the first, which appears a tragedy, turns out to be harmless, while the second, which seems a blessing, is a curse. The scorpion which stings Coyotito does no real damage. The child simply recovers. It is the discovery of the pearl that eventually kills Kino's son by making the family a target.

It is significant that when Kino and Juana first take Coyotito to the doctor, they are unable to see him. The doctor is protected by his wealth, his walls, and his servants from everyone he does not wish to encounter. This is because he is part of the corrupt system, insulated by money. Kino has no such protection, meaning that the social issues of poverty, crime, and corruption impact him directly as soon as he has something worth stealing.

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John Steinbeck's The Pearl explores several different social issues. The most prominent is the concept of greed and the destruction to which it leads. Many characters are overcome by greed, from the doctor in the beginning, to the corporate pearl buyers who try to scam Kino, and to Kino himself. Greed is pervasive throughout most of the characters in the novel.

Fueling this greed, however, is rampant poverty and destitution. This economic pit that most of the characters find themselves in is a terrible way of life that is sustained by corporate greed.

Criminal activity and violence are also explored in detail, as Kino and his family have to run from and fend off thieves and attackers multiple times. At one point Kino himself is reduced to murder to protect his family, but in the end he still can’t save his son, in spite of the wealth he would have received from the pearl.

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One of the social issues you might like to explore is colonialist exploitation. The indigenous people of Mexico—such as Kino and his family—have been exploited for centuries by their colonial overlords. Their heritage has been gradually undermined, to the extent that they've lost touch with their true identity.

The indigenous people are also subject to economic exploitation. They're kept in a state of poverty, occupying the lowest rungs on the social ladder, forced to perform the most dangerous and menial jobs to put food on the table. That's why the likes of the doctor are so reluctant to give Kino a fair price for his pearl. He doesn't believe that the indigenous folk are entitled to all the good things in life that such a valuable find could potentially bring. Instead, they should remain in poverty and a position of subjugation, the better to be controlled by their so-called racial superiors.

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The Pearl by John Steinbeck is a passionate condemnation of the effects of materialism and economic inequality on society.

The predominant social issue of the story is economic inequality and its devastating effects on the poor. Kino and Juana struggle to obtain medical care for their son, Coyotito, due to their poverty. Their hope that the pearl might pay for their son to become educated is a critique of the way society perpetuates poverty by depriving poor young people of access to the training and opportunities that would allow an escape from the cycle of poverty.

Next, the story criticizes capitalism and the way that rich cartels can deprive hardworking poor people of the fair economic rewards for their labor. Kino has done the difficult and dangerous work necessary to find the pearl, and yet the local buyers conspire to offer him a pittance so that they can derive all the benefits from his labor.

Next, the story is a critique of racism and imperialism, with the doctor and the capitalists being corrupt descendants of imperial rulers who continue to oppress and discriminate against those of indigenous heritage.

Finally, the story shows how wealth and materialism corrupt society and individuals.

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The Pearl by John Steinbeck is most definitely a work of social criticism. At the forefront of the story we see The Pearl as a simple parable teaching readers that greed is bad. Greed is the main evil that confronts the town (i.e. the priest, the doctor, the pearl buyers). It is clear that greed corrupts both people in power and lower-class citizens. Socially, this greed then spreads throughout classes and damages even innocent victims.

If we dig deeper into the novella, though, it is clear that Steinbeck had a much bigger agenda. Works of social criticism tend to critique the rules and expectations of a society. In The Pearl Steinbeck challenges the idea that society needs to keep the poor and powerless in their place, thus preserving the wealth and power of the upper class. This system of oppression is highlighted by Kino's plight with the pearl. 

Additionally, we can establish Kino not as the villain (as the parable would have us believe) but instead as a victim of a rigid class structure. The real villain here in this story is the town and its oppressive class system.

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