What is the purpose of the introduction in The Pearl by John Steinbeck?

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Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, the epigraph at the very beginning of the novella by definition serves as a brief summary of the story and also hints at what the lesson or moral of the story will be. Next, the purpose of the exposition is not only to describe the setting, but also to show Kino's relationship to nature at that point in his life.

John Steinbeck is known for his imagery, especially when it comes to nature. His introductions are very detailed and descriptive, and usually, the dialogue doesn’t begin until the reader knows exactly what the setting is like. In The Pearl, it is evident that Kino has a good relationship to nature while he absorbs his surroundings after he wakes. During this time, he hears a harmonious song, the Song of the Family, which reflects his attitude. For example, he observes ants with the “detachment of God,” and he knows exactly where he is in relationship to nature; he respects it and lives alongside it, but he knows that, as a man, he is above nature, just as God is superior to man.

The inciting incident, the scorpion, is the catalyst to changes that begin to take place in Kino’s relationship to nature. After this encounter, the Song of the Family changes to that of the enemy, and from that moment on, his relationship to natures begins to deteriorate.

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The Pearl

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