Symbolism in John Steinbeck’s The Pearl

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About this sample


Words: 917 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Oct 2, 2020

Words: 917|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Oct 2, 2020

“It is not good to want a thing too much. It sometimes drives the luck away. You must want it just enough, and you must be very tactful with Gods or the gods.” The Pearl, short story written by John Steinbeck, the author in which he presents Coyotito, the baby of Kino, a poor fisherman and his wife Juana. Everything starts off when the calamity strikes over the family when the infant Coyotito gets stung by a scorpion and the doctor refuses to heal the baby because of their race and lack of money. The irritation drives Kino and Juana desperately to the sea for pearl diving, hoping to find a pearl that might be valuable for Coyotito’s treatment. As he dives, he finds the so-called “Pearl of the World.” At the surface of the pearl he sees a brighter future, new clothes and education for his son. Kino goes to sell it but the pearl dealers try to lowball him and get it as cheap as possible. After his house had been ransacked and attacked by intruders Kino decides to sell the pearl at the capital. They go through mountains but realize that they are followed by three men. Afterwards everything goes differently and unexpectedly. In this text, I will analyze symbols that Steinbeck used to convey messages and show thoughts.

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Symbols such as the scorpion, pearl and canoe added deeper meaning to the story. First of them is the scorpion who changed the course of kino and his family’s life. The scorpion symbolizes evil. Steinbeck’s choice of words and the song of evil made it clear, “In his mind a new song had come, the Song of Evil, the music of the enemy, of any foe of the family, a savage, secret, dangerous melody, and underneath, the Song f the Family cried plaintively” that the scorpion is the actual source of evil, through Kinos feelings and thoughts even before his baby was stung (gets stung). The greedy doctor and scorpion was the two reasons for finding the great pearl which was the beginning of a new dark chapter of Kino’s life. The scorpions poison which is considered as one of the deadly poisons got healed by just some sea sand but there is another poison which is the peals poison which cannot be healed by anything.

The second symbol is the pearl, the pearl has many symbols in the story at the beginning of the story the pearl is seen as a savior and key that would open many doors for Coyotito, “And to Kino the secret melody of the maybe pearl broke clear and beautiful, rich and warm and lovely, glowing and gloating and triumphant. In the surface of the great pearl he could see dream forms.” The author described the pearl as a symbol of beauty, financial worth, and hope. All of Kino’s dreams were depended on the pearl, it would help the poor fisherman to pay for his son’s treatment and liberate them from poverty. As the story continues the symbols of the pearl changes. The pearl becomes a symbol of destruction because it destroys Kino’s life, character and becomes the cause of his son’s death. The humble fisherman’s simple life with a value of love and loyalty transformed into monster. The third symbol is the canoe. The canoe symbolizes the simplification of Kino’s life when he lived a peaceful life full of love without any need of riches and worth. ‘Kino and Juana came slowly down to the beach and to Kino’s canoe, which was the one thing of value he owned in the world.’ The author reinforces a message that the canoe was a very important thing in Kino’s life because it was his livelihood and the tie between him and his heritage. The destruction of Kino’s canoe meant cutting the tie between Kino and his simple life. In addition Kino and Juana couldn’t travel and so they made their way through the mountains. In conclusion, the author paints a portrait of how greed is a destructive force and how wealth can’t buy happiness. Kino gets the pearl and believes that he has all reasons for being happy.

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Steinbeck shows readers that wealth can’t buy happiness because Kino ends up living a miserable life. Kino didn’t appreciate what he had, he didn’t protect his canoe that he inherited from his grandfather or his house as he protect the pearl. Steinbeck wants readers to know that we have to appreciate what we have and be content. Greed might be necessary in some cases because it is like great factor for motivation. The greed is good when it’s mixed with ambition for example if i wasn’t greedy of getting higher grade than my friends i wouldn’t write this analysis and if i wasn’t ambition of getting an A i wouldn’t care about this analyze. It the same thing with our greatest inventions in science, technology. Many scientists wanted the Nobel Prize and the money. The beautiful cars, computer cellphones you see around you is because of company’s ambition of being the best and getting money. Greed is like slow suicide and an appetite of desires that never satisfied. You should be content and prioritize your family above everything because greed ruins relationships and family tie (as it did with Kino). If you are greedy you will not success because you will be worried about the things you don’t have and what others have. Greed changes people’s character, people become dishonest and selfish.

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Symbolism in John Steinbeck’s the Pearl. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
“Symbolism in John Steinbeck’s the Pearl.” GradesFixer, 10 Oct. 2020,
Symbolism in John Steinbeck’s the Pearl. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
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