There is a lesson in value in The Pearl. The value we place on certain things can be seen as arbitrary, to some degree, and can certainly be seen as a choice. We choose what to value, what to admire, what to honor, and what to disdain.
Our choices of value, ultimately, shape our lives.
Losing sight of our personal vision is much easier than we might think and this story demonstrates how quickly a family can be turned upside-down as a result of a confusion of personal values, community values, and related concerns.
This idea is relevant today because our choices as to our values will always remain the same. We will always be tasked with deciding (passively or actively) what to honor in our lives.
As Steinbeck tells us in the beginning, the story is a parable. We are supposed to learn from it. I think that one of the most important lessons it teaches is that you have to be careful who you trust. When you have something, everyone else wants it.
Kino does not realize that money or a Pearl of the World is not enough to open doors for him. He is yet "an Indian" and is, therefore, held in disdain regardless of whether he possesses the great pearl or not. His lack of education also holds him back.
We can also apply lessons from The Pearl to the issues between upper and lower class citizens. Kino and his family were taken advantage of by those with more education and more worldly knowledge. When we allow ourselves to be categorized or limited based on the judgement of others, we can become very "pigeon-holed". If others have more knowledge, then they always have more control. If Kino and the other villagers had more information, they could easily have discovered that the pearl buyers were all colluding against them for their entire lives! Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and without knowledge of the world around him, Kino is destined to be stuck in poverty forever.
"The Pearl" teaches us that in order to fight a corrupt establishment, we must join together and not try to fight it alone. When Kino found the Pearl, he tries to hide the Pearl on his own and to make his own deal with the corrupt Pearl dealers in the city near his village. Had he received help from other neighbors who simply watched what would happen, he could have strengthened his position. When he decides to go to the capitol, he goes alone with his family. They are no match for the professional killers who are tracking him. If he had taken a group from his village and even promised them a share of the profits from the pearl, he would have made it much more difficult for the killers to track him. He ends up losing his son, his boat and his self-esteem, all because he thought he was could fight alone. The lesson Kino learned can still be applied today when people must fight greedy corporate or government officials. An individual, especially a poor one, is easy to ignore. But the larger the group, the harder it is to ignore their demands.
One of the lessons that "The Pearl" teaches is what we risk when we become too greedy. There are several opportunities for Kino to sell the pearl or to rid himself of it before disaster really strikes, but he does not. He does this despite the foreshadowing of other characters' reactions, including that of his wife Juana, who senses from the beginning that the pearl is evil. When he attempts to sell it, he knows that what he is being offered is not what it is truly worth. However, consider what would happen if you had a pearl. Would you get what it was truly worth if you brought it to a pawn shop or even a jeweler? It is likely that they would both underpay you, and sell it to another for a much higher price. Kino needed to accept the fact that he would not get justice unless he could somehow fight the system. That is what he attempts, but as ms-mcgregor pointed out in her post, the strength in numbers he would have needed to pull it off just did not exist. Kino tried to go it alone, and he was bound to be thwarted. Both lessons still hold true today: there is strength in the masses; and greed will get the better of you.