The Pearl by John SteinbeckThe Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl

byJohn Steinbeck

Paperback | February 1, 1993

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“There it lay, the great pearl, perfect as the moon.”
Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the Kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull's egg, as "perfect as the moon." With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security....

A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man's nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.
John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses u...
Title:The PearlFormat:PaperbackDimensions:96 pages, 7.56 × 4.25 × 0.27 inPublished:February 1, 1993Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014017737x

ISBN - 13:9780140177374

Appropriate for ages: 18 - 18


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another great story from Steinbeck I love John Steinbeck. His writing is top notch and I have trouble reading anything modern after I read his work. His quality of writing is so much higher. A great little story. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-08-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good A classic, writing was beautiful but the book felt too old for me. Don't read if you like modern books
Date published: 2018-07-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good I can't say this book was fantastic, and I wasn't a fan of the way the action arced (felt a tad rushed), but the plot and writing was good.
Date published: 2018-06-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Quick Read It was a quick and easy read. I didn't mind it but didn't think much of it as soon as I put it down. In my opinion, it wasn't bad, but also wasn't much to write home about.
Date published: 2018-05-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Simple, quick This book is well written, though entirely predictable. However, Steinbeck's use of language and imagery is unparalleled, and I thoroughly enjoyed critically analyzing his writing (rather than the story line). Lovely ways of using words and events to foreshadow and instil a sense of immediacy in the reader.
Date published: 2018-05-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A parable about greed About as subtle as a brick through your window, and certainly not the best Steinbeck has to offer, but a good, short read nevertheless
Date published: 2018-04-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from . A good, short afternoon read. Perhaps a little heavy-handed in the exposition of it's themes, but a poignant novel none the less.
Date published: 2018-04-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fable A classic moralistic fable with a lesson to be learned.
Date published: 2017-05-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Superb. An American genius author, a classic tale, a gripping telling with perfect pace... A timeless American literary classic with moral lessons of community and generosity and love.
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Classic This is a classic short story about a man who learns to choose between family and greed. A classic to read.
Date published: 2017-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pearl What a life lesson to be learned by all.
Date published: 2016-12-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a must! this book teaches a valuable lesson. timeless
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fable This is a classic fable about the effects of greed and how it can destroy us. A timeless story more relevant today than ever before.
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from not too bad of a story Kino, a young and strong but poor pearl diver, and Juana live with their baby son Coyotito in a small fishing village outside the city of La Paz, Mexico (which according to Wikipedia is in Baja California Sur on the Gulf of California). Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, but as Kino has no money to pay the doctor, the boy is refused treatment. He recovers, thanks to Juana’s ministrations, but the next day Kino finds a huge pearl, which he calls “the pearl of the world.” By selling it, he can get the money to pay the doctor, but he also dreams of buying a rifle, marrying Juana, and getting Coyotito an education, things that he has never had money for thus far. However, his dreams blind him to the greed that the pearl arouses in him and his neighbors. Soon, the whole town knows of the pearl, and many people begin to desire it. That night Kino is attacked in his own home. The next day, he takes the pearl to the pearl buyers in the town, but they refuse to give him the money he wants so he decides to go to the capital for better price. Juana, seeing that the pearl is causing darkness and greed, sneaks out of the house later that night to throw the pearl back into the ocean, but Kino catches her. While he is returning to the house, Kino is attacked again by several unknown men and the pearl is lost in the struggle. Juana finds it and gives it back to Kino. When they arrive home they find that their canoe is damaged and their home is burning down, so they determine to walk to the capital but soon find that they are being tracked by men who are hired to hunt them. Will the family be able to escape? And what will happen to the pearl? This novella, which was first published as a short story “The Pearl of the World” in Woman’s Home Companion in 1945, explores man's nature as well as greed and evil and supposedly illustrates our fall from innocence. It is said to be a retelling of an old Mexican folk tale. That the doctor has performed clumsy abortions and had a mistress is mentioned. There are references to drinking wine and smoking cigarettes as well as to both “God” and “the gods.” Kino and Juana are not married but, of course, are living together and have a son. The story exhibits Steinbeck’s typical pessimistic cynicism leading to the conclusion that if something good ever happens, you had better watch out because it is just setting you up for something really bad. Someone has suggested that it bares “the fallacy of the American dream--that wealth erases all problems.” I don’t agree that the American dream is that wealth erases all problems, although some might think that, but I do agree that we must learn that wealth is not the ultimate answer to man’s greatest needs and presents some serious problems. All in all, it is not too bad of a book.
Date published: 2012-03-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A lesson For Life Even though this book has only 118 pages, it has a ton wisdom in it. Here we have a poor man who suddenly becomes rich when he finds a pearl. And suddenly people who only days earlier, would not give him time of day now want to be this friend. John Steinbeck shows that wealth is not only about money, it about friendship, love, and realising what you have may already makes you rich.
Date published: 2010-07-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pearls and Greed Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of the book, I found it to be just okay. The characters were okay, the plot was okay, the story was okay. I did like all the songs described though, and the twist at the end was interesting although sad. However, I didn't like how crazy the greed became, I could not see many people going to the extremes that some people went to in this book.
Date published: 2010-06-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Well this was an.... .... interesting read. This book depicts how we should not greed in life and be happy with what we have because we can never know the future in concrete but only in assumptions. Kino, a poor pearl-diver is the protagonist of this novel and throughout the book faces many obstacles because of finding the pearl of the world to save his son from dying. However with fortune comes jealousy, greed and enemies. Happy Reading!
Date published: 2009-10-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from simple timeless story.... I taught The Pearl at summer school this year. Although I have read a couple other Steinbeck novels, I’d never read this one. It’s a great little novella to teach because of its simplicity and easily recognizable themes of greed and hope. Kino and his wife Juana lead a simple life in La Paz, Mexico around 1900. Kino is a pearl diver, depending on the canoe passed down through the generations and his own work ethic. He’s a man content with his lot in life because he appreciates what he has. When his infant son, Coyotito, is stung by a scorpion it sets off a chain of events that not only ruins Kino, but upsets the delicate balance of the natural world (if only metaphorically) and the community in which Kino had so happily lived. The Pearl is an accessible novel. It gave us lots to talk about – do you need money and possessions to make you happy? Should you judge a man by the clothes he wears or his character? Is violence ever justified? Today’s teens often do think that money buys happiness and if ever there was a novel to disprove this assumption, The Pearl might well be it. If I were just reading it for pleasure, though, I might have been disappointed. I’m not a gigantic fan of Steinbeck’s writing at the best of times (although he certainly deserves his place in that list of great American writers). The Pearl is simplistic and at times unrealistic (which likely has to do with the fact that it’s a parable which comes from the oral tradition of storytelling). As it teacher it offered me lots to work with; as a reader it was less enchanting.
Date published: 2009-07-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from is essentially a morality tale The Pearl is essentially a morality tale about how the pursuit of wealth can lead to unhappiness. Perhaps that is unfair; putting it that way conjures up images of preachiness and boredom. The Pearl is neither preachy nor boring. It is a simple, short story, well told. It is well worth the short time it will take you to read it.
Date published: 2008-12-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Absolutey Horrible! I read this book quite a while ago in a class of approximately thirty kids. There was not a single person who enjoyed it! i found it boring, irrelevant and completely unrelatable. there was no story line and the book just dragged on. the chapters were ridiculously long and the content was repugnant and the characters werent developed. it was just overall a terrible piece of literature and a waste of time. but hey, if anyone liked it then you definatley have my respect ;)
Date published: 2008-07-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Pearl - John Steinbeck John Steinbeck has excellent creativity skill and always intreages the reader to read between the lines.
Date published: 2006-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many Attributes The Pearl is a uniquely written book that is based on a Mexican folktale. Though it was written by the deceased author, John Steinbeck, in 1945, it is quite timeless, and the conflicts that the characters face still apply largely to today's society. Kino the poor pearl-diver finally finds a pearl that he believes to be of value, but the outcomes associated with the find are grave. The outcomes associated with it cost lives and happiness. The novel cleverly portrays many unfavourable but true concepts about today's society, whether it be the gap between rich and poor or racism. It reminds the reader that these conflicts occur on a grand scale in our world, even though it may not be in the form of the story in The Pearl. What The Pearl does, however, is gives us a unique story associated with these key problems. Kino wants to find the pearl solely so that he can pay for a doctor to help his son live, but it takes him in a new direction: a direction that neither Kino nor the reader may ever consider. All three members of Kino's family: himself, his wife Juana, and Coyotito, go through some form of Bildungsroman which is frightening yet interesting to witness. Kino goes from poor yet satisfied pearl diver to a fiendish killer; Juana goes from obedient wife to one who fights back and is not afraid to express her opinion; Coyotito is exposed to new things and must change his personality as he experiences these catharses. Steinbeck gives very subtle indications of each character's traits, yet the descriptions are copious and are related in cunning fashion. Steinbeck uses a unique writing style that makes the novella quite enjoyable to read. He tells it with a folktale approach that reminds the reader of Aesop, yet he intertwines more description and character traits. It is clear to see that the story is based on a Mexican folktale; nevertheless, Steinbeck has added his own unique touch. As stated, the character descriptions are subtle yet plentiful, while the setting is even more punctiliously depicted. However, the art that Steinbeck has most successfully mastered is conveying the characters' emotions and the varying auras in the novella. The reader is able to sense when a character experiences stress, or when a situation is particularly grave. The novella's length of ninety pages, in my opinion, is an advantage. Its storyline is as complex and of equal quality to any other acclaimed novel (such as The Lord of the Rings, with which I believe it shares similarities), and its description is of equal meticulousness. Therefore, The Pearl does not need to be longer than it is; any extra writing would be superfluous. Steinbeck also dutifully incorporates song and music into The Pearl. Songs, whether they be The Song of The Pearl or The Song of the Family, religiously reflect the feelings of the characters as well as how the story is unfolding. For example, when Kino first finds the pearl, the Song of The Pearl is strong and happy, but at the end of the novel, it is distorted and insane. This suits Kino's character as well as the story line perfectly. The final key positive element of The Pearl worth mentioning in this review is how Steinbeck manages to craftily drill in the novel's morals and themes to the reader. Obviously the key moral is that nothing can be overestimated; if something is wished for too hard it will not be granted. Steinbeck never ceases to impose these important morals: they can be found on virtually every page of the novel. Though only ninety pages, The Pearl is full to the brim with artful character descriptions that include extensive Bildungsroman, an exciting plot, as well as important morals that must be remembered as we go about our everyday lives. Such morals in The Pearl I will never forget; and thus, I will never forget the unique writing style and gripping plot that made The Pearl so commendable.
Date published: 2005-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Kino and his wishes or loses The Pearl by Steinbeck is about an unwealthy man named Kino who finds a enormous, perfect pearl. Kino thinks that this pearl pearl will bring his family on top for once but he will soon find out that the pearl will also bring danger to Kino's family. Kino wants to get a harpoon, a rifle and wants his son to go to school in exchange for the pearl. Kino gets the rifle but looses many things in return, he lost his house, his boat and most important, his son who which he was protecting in the beginning. He only went to find the poor because he needed the money so that the doctor would treat his son, the poison which the scorpion had left. There are many other exciting things in this book but you'll just have to read it yourself.
Date published: 2000-10-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story I think this book was great it teaches a life lesson. And a story about family and friends. And how the most valuble things in life are not the most important. If you want a great story , with an adventure i recommend you read this book.
Date published: 2000-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A book of great morals and values I thought this book was great. It taught me a lot about being thankful for what you have and always apreaciating everything around you. I recently read it and found it a wonderful book that you can tell all your friends about. I f you want to read a great book that you can learn something from, read John Steinbeck's " The Pearl".
Date published: 2000-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best This book was one of the book's that I actualy liked. It was interesting and exciting.
Date published: 2000-03-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not all that good! This was the first steinbeck book i have read and i am not all that impressed. With a name like steinbeck i expected well written irony and wit that leaps from the pages. maybe i missed some or all of that but i found it a dull extremley short book which takes forever to reach it's point.
Date published: 1999-07-25

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTIONWhen John Steinbeck accepted his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, he described the writer's obligation as "dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement." For some critics, that purpose has obscured Steinbeck's literary value. He has been characterized variously as an advocate of socialist-style solutions to the depredations of capitalism, a champion of individualism, a dabbler in sociobiology, and a naturalist.While evidence for different political and philosophical stances may be culled from Steinbeck's writings, a reader who stops at this point misses some of the most interesting aspects of his work, including his use of paradox. "Men is supposed to think things out," insists Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. "It ought to have some meaning" (p. 55). But in this epic novel, as well as in Of Mice and Men and The Pearl, Steinbeck seems to question whether the mysteries of human existence can ever be fully explained. In these works that span the grim decade from 1937 to 1947, Steinbeck urges the dispossessed to challenge a system that denies them both sustenance and dignity, and to seek the spiritual belonging that enables individuals to achieve their full humanity. So we have the paradox of the author apparently denouncing injustice while also exalting acceptance of the sorrows visited on humanity, whether those sorrows are wrought by nature or by humans themselves.All three books examine the morality and necessity of actions the characters choose as they pursue their dreams. The poor fisherman Kino in The Pearl dreams of education for his son and salvation for his people. We first meet him in the dimness before dawn, listening to the sounds of his wife, Juana, at her chores, which merge in his mind with the ancestral Song of the Family. "In this gulf of uncertain light [where] there were more illusions than realities" (p. 19), the pearl that Kino finds lights the way to a more just world and the end of centuries of mistreatment by white colonizers. But the promise of wealth manifests the archetypal evil hidden in the community's unconscious, like the pearl that had lain hidden in its oyster at the bottom of the sea. As the dream turns dark, Kino descends into violence, bringing death to four men and ultimately to his own son. What other choices might he have made? This parable raises questions about our relationship to nature, the human need for spiritual connection, and the cost of resisting injustice.Steinbeck's most controversial work, The Grapes of Wrath, raises similar questions. During the Dust Bowl Era, three generations of the Joad family set out on the road, seeking a decent life in fertile California and joining thousands of others bound by an experience that transforms them from "I" to "we" (p. 152). Cooperation springs up among them spontaneously, in sharp contrast with the ruthlessness of big business and the sad choices made by its victims, for whom "a fella got to eat" (p. 344) is a continual refrain. Casy, the preacher turned strike leader, wonders about the "one big soul ever'body's a part of" (p. 24).On their journey to the promised land, the characters in The Grapes of Wrath confront enigmatic natural forces and dehumanizing social institutions. Casy is martyred as he takes a stand for farmers who have lost their land to drought and are brutally exploited as migrant laborers. His disciple Tom Joad, who served time for killing a man in a bar fight, ultimately kills another man he believes responsible for Casy's death. Tom's passionate conviction—expressed in his assertion that "wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there" (p. 419)—stirs our sympathy; but his dilemma, like Kino's, requires us to ask whether taking a human life can ever be justified.The Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl are also linked by their female characters and the questions they raise about gender roles and family identity. In The Pearl, Juana's "quality of woman, the reason, the caution, the sense of preservation, could cut through Kino's manness and save them all" (p. 59). Is this quality most responsible for the return of the pearl to the sea at the end of the novel? Like Juana, Ma Joad is "the citadel of the family" (p. 74). As the remnants of the Joad family seek refuge in a barn at the close of The Grapes of Wrath, Ma's daughter Rose of Sharon nurses a starving stranger with milk meant for her dead baby. This final scene of female nurturing offers a resolution while also disturbing our long-held ideas about family.Steinbeck departs from this depiction of women in Of Mice and Men. Confined to her husband's home, and never given a name in the novel, Curley's wife functions almost as a force of nature, precipitating the events that wreck the men's "best laid schemes," as poet Robert Burns wrote. Whereas the women in The Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl suggest hope even in the bleakest of circumstances, Curley's wife leaves only shattered dreams in her wake.Of Mice and Men tells a tightly compressed story set during the Great Depression. George and Lennie, drifters and friends in a landscape of loners, scrape by with odd jobs while dreaming of the time they'll "live on the fatta the lan'" (p. 101). Lennie has a massive body and limited intelligence, and his unpredictable behavior casts George as his protector. The novel is peopled with outcasts—a black man, a cripple, a lonely woman. The terror of the consequences of infirmity and old age in an unresponsive world is underscored when a laborer's old dog is shot. Is Lennie's similar death at the hands of his protector, with his dream before his eyes, preferable to what the future holds for him? Nearly all the characters share in some version of the dream, recited almost ritualistically, and in their narrow world it is pitifully small: "All kin's a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We'd jus' live there. We'd belong there" (p. 54).The ending appears to be at odds with Steinbeck's explicit exhortations for social change in the other two novels. In Of Mice and Men, he seems to appeal to a higher form of wisdom in the character of Slim, who does not aspire to anything beyond the sphere he occupies. His "understanding beyond thought" (p. 31) echoes Rose of Sharon's mysterious smile at the end ofThe Grapes of Wrath.From the questions his characters pose about what it means to be fully human, Steinbeck may be understood to charge literature with serving not only as a call to action, but as an expression and acceptance of paradox in our world. "There is something untranslatable about a book," he wrote. "It is itself—one of the very few authentic magics our species has created."ABOUT JOHN STEINBECKJohn Steinbeck's groundbreaking and often controversial work, with its eye on the common people, earned him both high praise and sharp criticism. In addition to his novels, Steinbeck produced newspaper and travel articles, short stories, plays, and film scripts.Born in 1902 in Salinas, California, Steinbeck spent much of his life in surrounding Monterey county, the setting for some of his books. His experience as a young man working menial jobs, including as a farm laborer, ranch hand, and factory worker, was transformed into descriptions of the lives of his working-class characters. After attending Stanford University intermittently for six years, Steinbeck traveled by freighter to New York, where he worked briefly as a journalist before returning to California.His first novel, Cup of Gold, appeared in 1929, but it was Tortilla Flat (1935), his picaresque tale of Monterey's paisanos, that first brought Steinbeck serious recognition. Of Mice and Men (1937) was also well received. The Grapes of Wrath (1939), a book many claim is his masterpiece, was both critically acclaimed and denounced for its strong language and apparent leftist politics. Always shunning publicity, Steinbeck headed for Mexico in 1940, where he made The Forgotten Village, a documentary film about conditions in rural Mexico. He spent the war years as a correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, for which he later toured the Soviet Union in 1947; he also wrote the novel The Moon Is Down (1942), about Norwegian resistance to the Nazis.Steinbeck's other notable works of fiction include The Pearl (1947), East of Eden (1952), and The Winter of Our Discontent(1961). He also wrote a memoir of a cross-country trip with his poodle, Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962). Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He died in New York in 1968. His work stands as testament to his commitment to "celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit."DISCUSSION QUESTIONSWhy can neither Kino nor Juana protect their baby from the scorpion? Why could Kino kill the doctor more easily than talk to him? Why is it important to Juana that Kino be the one to throw the pearl back into the sea? Why does Kino think the killing of a man is not as evil as the killing of a boat? What does the narrator mean when he says, "A town is a thing like a colonial animal" (p. 21)? Why does the music of the pearl change? Why does Kino come to feel that he will lose his soul if he gives up the pearl? Why does Tomás help Kino? Why does Juana feel the events following the pearl's discovery may all have been an illusion? What is the significance of Juana and Kino's walking side by side when they return to the town?FOR FURTHER REFLECTIONDid Kino do the right thing in demanding a fair price for the pearl, even if it meant leaving his community? Why does Steinbeck choose the parable as the form for this story?RELATED TITLESThe Grapes of WrathJohn Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (1925)The alienating effects of capitalism, technology, and urbanization are portrayed in this montage of life in New York City.Tomás Rivera,... y no se lo trag— la tierra/... (And the Earth Did Not Devour Him) (1971)A seminal work of Latino literature, these thirteen vignettes embodying the anonymous voice of "the people" depict the exploitation of Mexican American migrant workers.Émile Zola, Germinal (1885)The striking miners in this nineteenth-century tale of class struggle are cast as the victims of both an unjust social system and their own human weaknesses.The PearlErnest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1952)Winner of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this novella tells the story of an old fisherman's endurance as he pursues, captures, and ultimately loses a great marlin.D. H. Lawrence, "The Rocking-Horse Winner" (in The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories) (1928)This fablelike short story follows a boy to his tragic end as he desperately tries to respond to his family's obsession with money.Of Mice and MenFrank Norris, McTeague (1899)In this pioneering naturalistic novel set in California, a man of large physical but small intellectual powers pursues a dream beyond menial tasks, but is corrupted by "civilization."Leo Tolstoy, "Master and Man" (in Master and Man and Other Stories) (1895)The relationship between a greedy landowner and his gentle laborer undergoes a dramatic change in this novella when the two are trapped in a snowstorm.

From Our Editors

"Duh... gee, George... who do you think the most popular American novelist is?" "I don't know, Lenny. I just don't know. But it might be John Steinbeck." The Pearl is one of Steinbeck's most moving stories, following the life of Kino, a poor pearl-diver, who discovers a large, absolutely perfect pearl on the bottom of the sea. He hopes that it will provide him with the means of supporting his family, but he soon learns that wealth can bring out the darkest evils in the human nature.

Editorial Reviews

“[The Pearl] has the distinction and sincerity that are evident in everything he writes.”—The New Yorker

“Form is the most important thing about him. It is at its best in this work.” —Commonweal

“[Steinbeck has] long trained his prose style for such a task as this: that supple unstrained, muscular power, responsive to the slightest pull of the reins.”—Chicago Sunday Times