John Steinbeck - The Pearl

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"Music of the Pearl"

Mar 15, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:It makes you think seriously about the meaning of happiness

Cons:It is heartbreaking

The Pearl first published in 1945 is one of Steinbeck's lesser known "jewels". The Pearl is about a poor fisherman and his young family trapped in poverty, yet dreaming of finding "the pearl of the world" that can help his family break free.

Steinbeck writes with a style that gratifies the senses. His words are chosen for their sensual value. You can see the morning sun shimmering on the ocean, smell the salt water and algae, but most of all you can hear the music.

Throughout the story, Steinbeck weaves music. Kino, the young fisherman hears the "Music of the family" when his wife is going about her morning duties. When diving for oysters, Kino hears the "music of the grey -green water and the little scuttling animals". The "music of the pearl of the world" ushers in Kino's good fortune with the finding of a beautiful pearl. And "the music of the enemy" follows Kino as surely as evil follows his good fortune.

Kino hopes that with the finding of "the pearl of the world", a pearl of exquisite beauty and value, he will be able to purchase peace and contentment. He does not realize until too late, that the "music of the family" that he hears at the beginning of the tale signifies the peace and happiness that he has already earned and cannot be bought. Even with the "pearl of the world".

Steinbeck's personal history , working as a fruit picker as well as other jobs, allowed him to grasp the emotions of those who were struggling to survive in a class system that allowed very few to break free. Kino found a valuable pearl but was not able to break free of the bindings of his class. The good fortune of Kino became an evil thing.

The Pearl is a heartbreaking, stirring novel about good and evil. It will lodge itself in your heart. It will linger.


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