John Steinbeck’s The Pearl: The Two Sides of the Coin

I just finished John Steinbeck’s short novel, The Pearl, a story about a pearl-diver, Kino, and his wife, Juana, and son, Coyotito. One day, after a scorpion stings Coyotito, and the rich doctor refuses to car for Kino’s son, the pearl-diver finds The Pearl of the World. The rest of the novel narrates Kino’s struggle with the effects of the Pearl. It has the possibility of giving his son a good education, providing food and clothes for the family, and an official wedding ceremony for him and Juana:

And the beauty of the pearl, winking and glimmering in the light of the little candle, cozened his brain with its beauty. so lovely it was, so soft, and its own music came from it–its music of promise and delight, its guarantee of the future, of comfort, of security. Its warm lucence promised a poultice against illness and a wall against insult. It closed a door on hunger. And as he stared at it Kino’s eyes softened and his face relaxed. He could see the little image of the consecrated candle reflected in the soft surface of the pearl, and he heard again in his ears the lovely music of the undersea, the tone of the diffused green light of the sea bottom. Juana, glancing secretly at him, saw him smile. And because they were in some way one thing and one purpose, she smiled with him.

And they began this day with hope.

After multiple deaths, a burned down house, and a fearful flight to the mountains, they return to the town and throw the Pearl into the ocean:

And when they came to the water’s edge they stopped and stared out over the Gulf. And then Kino laid the rifle down, and he dug among his clothes, and then he held the great pearl in his hand. He looked into its surface and it was gray and ulcerous. Evil faces peered from it into his eyes, and he saw the light of burning. And in the surface of the pearl he saw the frantic eyes of the man in the pool. And in the surface of the pearl he saw Coyotito lying in the little cave with the top of his head shot away. And the pearl was ugly; it was gray, like a malignant growth. And Kino heard the music of the pearl, distorted and insane. Kino’s hand shook a little, and he turned slowly to Juana and held the pearl out to her. She stood beside him, still holding her dead bundle over her shoulder. She looked at the pearl in his hand for a moment and then she looked into Kino’s eyes and said softly, “No, you.”

Money might provide you with the things necessary for life, along with some leisure and peace. However, much money, or an obsession with money, can destroy you and your family with the introduction of greed, jealousy, rage, and materialism into your life.

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