What role does religion play in John Steinbeck's The Pearl?

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The community in which Kino and his family live is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. The priest is extremely influential in the affairs of the town. Kino and Juana are firm believers in the involvement of God in their lives, yet their belief is also mixed with some superstition. Juana is sure that the discovery of the pearl is an answer to her prayer. This will mean an increase in their standard of living and can only be the result of divine intervention.

As events progress, however, Juana changes her mind and sees the pearl as a curse on their family. Only bad things, not good things, happen after the discovery. They are victims of attack and attempted robbery, leading to Kino commit murder to protect the pearl. They attempt to go to the city, but in a confrontation, their son is killed.

Kino now agrees with his wife that the pearl is cursed. Returning home, they throw the pearl back into the sea, hoping to appease God and be released from the evil effects it has brought. This belief in an inanimate object as the focus of a curse is reflective of their superstitious beliefs.

The belief that human beings are subject to the whims of an often vengeful god is reflective of the teachings of some primitive religions among the native peoples. This influences their understandings of the teaching of the church that is so central to their lives.

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