What are some examples of the American Dream in John Steinbeck's "The Pearl" from chapter 1 and 2?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the first chapter of The Pearl, we see that Kino and his wife, Juana, are too poor to afford the services of the local doctor, a man who looks down on the "natives" and caters only to the richer, more "civilized" people of the town. When their baby, Coyotito, is stung by a scorpion, Kino can only offer "eight small misshapen seed pearls, as ugly and gray as little ulcers, flattened and almost valueless." The doctor's servant is forced to send them away with an obvious excuse because this payment is unacceptable to his employer. All of Kino's neighbors, and even the local beggars, witness this humiliation and many relate to and sympathize with the little family.

In the second chapter, Kino and Juana go out into the estuary to search for pearls to use as payment for the doctor. Under the water, Kino hears the

Song of the Pearl That Might Be, for every shell thrown in the basket might contain a pearl. . . . And in the canoe above him Kino knew that Juana was making the magic of prayer, her face set rigid and her muscles hard to force the luck.

The young couple, in other words, dreams and wishes and prays to find this special, once-in-a-lifetime pearl so that they can improve their lives and save the life of their son.

Kino, in his pride and youth and strength, could remain down over two minutes without strain, so that he worked deliberately, selecting the largest shells.

He works hard, with diligence and perseverance and strength, hoping that, with a little luck, he will be able to achieve this dream, the dream represented by the pearl. The American Dream is the idea that every person has an equal opportunity to achieve their goals if they are willing to work hard, and all of the fishermen likewise believe in the possibility of their possessing luck enough to find the "Pearl of the World" (as it is called in the third chapter). Kino finds such a pearl, and Coyotito's injury begins to heal on its own, and it begins to seem as though the little family's luck has changed: that they are on their way to achieving their dreams.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team