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In 1940 John Steinbeck joined his biologist friend Edward F. Ricketts on a sailboat to collect marine invertebrates from the beaches of the Gulf of California. While they stopped in the harbor town of La Paz, Mexico, they heard a story about a poor Indian boy who had discovered a magnificent pearl. Steinbeck took this tale and wove his novel as a parable, a tale told in order to present a moral lesson.
The narrator of this parable is an omniscient one; he knows what is in the minds and hearts of the characters as well as what happens around them. This legend of the Pearl of the World is told as though one of the Indians were orally relating it because he includes cultural details such as the mention of the songs that things become and the comparison of Kino to animals. Truly, there is a musicality to this legend of Kino and the great pearl along with a certain simplicity:
Juana sang softly an ancient song that had only three notes and yet endless variety of interval. And this was part of the family song, too. It was all part. Sometimes it rose to an aching chord that caught the throat, saying this is safety, this is warmth, this is the Whole.
Steinbeck's use of these techniques imparts an emotional and expansive quality to this parable, one that touches the readers as in their imaginations they listen to the narrative with their hearts. Through this parable, Steinbeck expresses both his "reverence for life" and his disillusionment after World War II as Kino and his family are destroyed by greed.
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