The Pearl

Written at a time of moral disillusionment and uncertainty, John Steinbeck’s The Pearl questions the very foundations of the American dream.

A second or third reading is probably required before I can say anything meaningful (i.e. something that isn’t blatantly obvious); nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this.

For some reason, I assumed that Steinbeck’s writing would be dry, but it was wonderfully ethereal and pared down. Poetic. And, for once, I was satisfied with the ending. Not only was it beautifully written, but there was a completeness to it, probably because of its folk-tale origins.

And the pearl settled into the lovely green water and dropped towards the bottom. The waving branches of the algae called to it and beckoned to it. The lights on its surface were green and lovely. It settled down to the sand bottom among the fern-like plants. Above, the surface of the water was a green mirror. And the pearl lay on the floor of the sea. A crab scampering over the bottom raised a little cloud of sand, and when it settled the pearl was gone.

And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.

There is a touch of irony in the nature of the pearl (perfect as the moon, large as a seagull’s egg). The pearl buyers attempt to cheat Kino but their lies ring true to an extent. Wealth is fool’s gold: worthless, deceptive. This is a parable with a clear moral: greed leads to misfortune; materialism to destruction.

I apologise for the poor review. Am currently experiencing some difficulty stringing sentences together.

» The Pearl was read as a part of the 2009 Decades challenge, and for Nobel Literature Prize project, an (ongoing project)

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18 thoughts on “The Pearl

  1. I’ve just started reading Travels with Charley in Search of America and really enjoy it but I’ll see if I can find this one, too. Thanks for posting :-)

  2. I loved loved loved East of Eden, and yes I’d have to agree about his writing style being poetic. I look forward to reading Grapes of Wrath this year. But I”m adding this to my list!

    1. RebeccaGrapes of Wrath is also on my 2009 to-read list; I’ll have to addEast of Eden. I sort of used this novella to ‘sample’ Steinbeck’s work, now I’m ready to take him aboard. I like his style :)

  3. Thank you for reminding me of this lovely little novel whose impact on the society is so far-fetched. I read it in high school but do not remember the details. Just the beautiful and folkorish writing is worth a re-read.

  4. Thanks for reminding me of this: some of Steinbeck’s best work, I reckon, are his shorter books: The Pearl, Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, Burning Bright, Tortilla Flat, etc.

    Travels with Charley is great. Charley is a huge poodle with a speech impediment–he’s missing his top front teeth, and says ‘Wuth’ a lot.

    1. The Pearl wasn’t my first Steinbeck after all. I very vaguely recall reading The Red Pony – a long while ago. Damn my abysmal memory; I guess I’ll just have to read it again.

      ps. I didn’t know dogs could have speech impediments, but Charley sounds adorable :)

  5. I’d second the comment that Steinbeck’s novellas/short novels are among his best. Travels with Charley is tremendous fun.

  6. I hated the Red Pony. Tried reading Grapes of Wrath but got too depressed.
    (And now that the US is sooo close to another Great Depression, I think that I will skip it unless I need a how-to on how to survive it.)

    I loved the Pearl and East of Eden.

    1. Isabel – what was it about the Red Pony that you hated? Personally, I remember reading it, but I have no memory whatsoever of what it was about. As for Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, I’ll definitely be reading them. I’ve found that the best remedy for depressing books is to read them in summer. Works like a charm :)

  7. Well, Red Pony was required reading in high school and I just didn’t care what happened to the horse.

    Summer in New Orleans is unbearable and I can concentrate better on big books, because I stay inside with the air conditioner on.

    I do think it’s easier to read depressing books in the summer because the sun is always shining. Even though the mood of the book might be very bleak.

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