The Pearl (novel)
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)|
1st edition (US)
|Original title||The Pearl|
|Illustrator||Cover Design: Micheal Ian Kaye|
|Cover artist||Ross Mcdonald|
|Publisher||The Viking Press (US)
William Heinemann (UK)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
The Pearl is a novella by American author John Steinbeck, published in 1947. It is the story of a pearl diver, Kino, and explores man's nature as well as greed and evil. Steinbeck's inspiration was a Mexican folk tale from La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, which he had heard in a visit to the formerly pearl-rich region in 1940. In 1947, it was adapted into a Mexican film named La perla. The story is one of Steinbeck's most popular books and has been widely used in high school classes.
Kino, a young, poor fisherman, lives in a small town, La Paz, with his wife Juana, and his baby son, Coyotito. When Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, Kino must find a way to pay the town doctor to treat him. Shortly thereafter, Kino discovers an enormous pearl which he is ready to sell to pay the doctor. Sadly, other forces work against Kino. Nearly as soon as he returns from sea, the whole town knows of the pearl. Everyone calls it "the pearl of the world, " and many people begin to covet it. That very night Kino is attacked in his own home. Determined to get rid of the pearl, the following morning he takes it to the pearl buyers in town. However, the pearl buyers collude together and refuse to pay him what he wants, so he decides to go over the mountains to the capital to find a better price. However, Juana, seeing that the pearl brings darkness and greed, sneaks out of the house late at night to throw it back into the ocean. When Kino catches her, furious, he attacks her and leaves her on the beach. Returning to the house with the pearl, Kino is attacked by an unknown man whom he stabs and kills. The pearl is dropped and hidden from view. He thinks the man has taken the pearl, but Juana shows him that she has found it. When they go back to the town, they find their home has been set on fire. Kino and Juana spend the day hiding in the house of Kino's brother Juan Tomás and his wife and gathering provisions for their trip to the capital city. Only there can they hope to sell the pearl for a decent price. Kino, Juana, and Coyotito leave in the dark of the night. After a brief rest in the morning, Kino spots trackers who are following them. Well aware that they will be unable to hide from the trackers, they begin hiking into the mountains. They find a cave near a natural water hole, where the exhausted family hides and waits for the trackers to catch up to them. The trackers find the water hole and decide to rest there for the night. Kino realizes that he must get rid of the trackers if they are to survive the trip to the capital. As he prepares to attack, the men hear a cry like a baby's though they decide it's more like a coyote with a litter. One of the men fires his rifle in the direction of the crying, where Juana and Coyotito lie. Kino tackles the man, takes the gun and kills all of the trackers. Kino then realizes that something is wrong; he climbs back up to the cave to discover that the man's shot has killed Coyotito. In mourning, Kino and Juana return to La Paz with Coyotito's dead body wrapped in a sling. No longer wanting the pearl, Kino throws it back into the ocean. Because of the loss of their only child, Coyotito, Kino and Juana have become hardened and indifferent.
The story is based upon a legend that Steinbeck had heard about a boy who found a large pearl but decided to keep and hide it when the vendors offered him only a small price. After being beat up by others who wanted the pearl, the legend says the boy threw it into the ocean. Steinbeck altered the story because the boy seemed "too heroic, too wise."
He began writing the story as a movie script in 1944, and first published it as a short story called "The Pearl of the World" in Woman's Home Companion in December, 1945. The original publication is also sometimes listed as "The Pearl of La Paz". He expanded it to novella length and published it under the name The Pearl by Viking Press in 1947. As he was writing the novella version, he was frequently travelling to Mexico where the film version, co-written with Jack Wagner, was being filmed. The film was also released by RKO in 1947 as a co-promotion with the book.
Reception and analysis 
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The book received initial positive response from publications like The New York Times and Library Journal.
The story is one of Steinbeck's most popular books and has been widely used in high school classes.
Jackson Benson writes that The Pearl was heavily influenced by Steinbeck's interest in the philosophy of Carl Jung. Steinbeck wrote that he created the story of The Pearl to address the themes of "human greed, materialism, and the inherent worth of a thing."
- The Pearls of La Paz, Kristian Beadle, Pacific Standard Magazine, July 6, 2010
- Simmonds, Roy S. "Steinbeck's The Pearl: A Preliminary Textual Study. ", Steinbeck Quarterly 22.01-02 (Winter/Spring 1989): 16-34.
- Railsback, Brian E.; Meyer, Michael J. (2006). A John Steinbeck Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 284–. ISBN 9780313296697. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Hayashi, Tetsumaro (1993). A New Study Guide to Steinbeck's Major Works With Critical Explications. Scarecrow Press. pp. 174–. ISBN 9780810826113. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Benson, Jackson J. (1990). The Short Novels of John Steinbeck: Critical Essays With a Checklist to Steinbeck Criticism. Duke University Press. pp. 143–. ISBN 9780822309949. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- "Steinbeck Quarterly 1989, Vol. 22, No. 01-02". Ball State University. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Schultz, Jeffrey D.; Li, Luchen (2009-01-01). Critical companion to John Steinbeck. Infobase Publishing. pp. 167–. ISBN 9781438108506. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
Further reading