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In the books Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Pearl by John Steinbeck, the major theme presented contributing to the plot was greed. Greed is a theme that is displayed through the actions of characters in both of these books and plays a role in driving the plot forward. Both books consist of adventure and mystery leading to a suspenseful reading experience. Greed results in consequences such as possessiveness, dangerous outcomes and guilt, which all play particularly outstanding roles in plot advancement. All three of these topics feed into the overall demise of characters in the books, making them extremely important factors to analyze.
Intense greed causes individuals to do things that they would not typically do, such as being possessive. The characters in the story lose sight of the bigger picture and it causes them to want more than they already have. In The Pearl, Kino finds a rare pearl and took it to an appraiser to get as much money as possible from it but the appraiser would not even give Kino half of what he desired. He would not settle for less and walked out of the store with no money and the extraordinary pearl in his pocket. The Pearl caused Kino to become very obsessive over Coyotito, his son, and was referring to the boy as property, “His face shone with prophecy. ‘My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know — he will know and through him, we will know… This is what the pearl will do’”. It is not selfish of Kino to want more for his son, but it is greedy for him to want his child to be better than everyone else in his neighbourhood, as they live in a poor community surrounded by rich cities. Non-wealthy people can be just as greedy as treasure hungry pirates. In a conversation between Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey in Treasure Island, the squire brings up some good remarks about how the famous pirate Captain Flint only does tasks where there is money and riches involved. Not just Flint cared about money, all other pirates did too, “‘But the point is, had he money?’ ‘Money! Have you heard the story? What do they care for but money? For what would they risk their rascal carcasses but money?’”. Money is an object and they keep wanting more, no matter the cost; bloodshed, dishonesty, and disloyalty do not affect them, so why would they bother worrying? One of the few characters that are genuinely not interested in the money is Ben Gunn, “he possesses the entire Flint treasure hoard, yet shares it with Squire Trelawney and his men, asking for only a small portion of it in return for his services to them”. He has witnessed first hand what possessiveness looked like from Captain Flint, and he was worried that it would happen to him.
Throughout both novels, multiple characters have lost their lives either trying to protect what they have or by trying to gain more power. In the case of the character Kino in The Pearl, his son is murdered because he kept the Pearl instead of selling it, which caused multiple individuals to target the family and want to take the pearl. The baby was innocent and still untouched from the hands of greed, but the mood changed in the story “and then Kino stood uncertainty. Something was wrong, some signal was trying to get through to his brain. Tree frogs and cicadas were silent now. And then Kino’s brain cleared from its red concentration and he knew the sound – the keening, moaning, rising hysterical cry from the little cave in the side of the stone mountain, the cry of death”. Kino didn’t realize what trouble he brought to his family until this moment, and he thought he could keep his family safe and still get what he wanted. Not only did Coyotito die, but multiple pirates too. Multiple pirates have lost their lives but they didn’t pass on from battle, they lost their lives to keep a secret. Captain Flint never showed mercy when it came to getting what he wanted and he never took chances to reveal where his treasure was hidden. But, “the idea of treasure functions in another way in the book, too, playing off the double meaning of the word “fortune,” which can mean both ‘wealth’ and ‘fate’”. In saying this, it draws on a good point that the treasure could be perceived as whatever the pirates wanted it to be seen as. In chapter thirteen, a character is introduced named Benn Gunn and he set out for an adventure and he was part of Captain Flint’s crew when the murder took place. When he met the main character, Jim Hawkins, Ben told him about what he saw on the island. He said: “I were in Flint’s ship when he buried the treasure; he and six along- six strong seamen… But, there he was, you mind, and the six all dead- dead and buried. How he done it, not a man aboard us could make out. It was battle, murder, and least ways…”. This was the pirate way and eventually Ben joined a different crew then told them of where Flint’s treasure is located, and soon after he was marooned on a separate island. This proves that even if an individual tries to stay away from being greedy themselves, other greedy people nearby will have an impact on their overall life.
Greed can be an easy temptation to succumb to, but it is challenging dealing with the consequences. There is a clear moment in The Pearl when the Kino realizes what he has done and it causes the reader to feel remorse for this character. To be specific in this book, the narrator wrote: “Now Kino lay in the cave entrance, his chin braced on his crossed arms, and he watched the blue shadow of the mountain move out across the brushy desert below until it reached the Gulf, and the long twilight of the shadow was over the land”. Kino is sitting by himself reflecting on what he has done and what has happened to his once fulfilling life, of waking up to his wife and son. It will never be the same as it once was because his friends turned on him, which caused him to panic and inevitably got his son killed in the process. Coyotito being killed was an accident which is why it is understandable for Kino to feel regret and remorse for his son. Pirates, on the other hand, do not feel guilt, so the character in Treasure Island that best demonstrates this trait is Jim. He starts out as a young and innocent boy but eventually grows and matures into a young man that can take care of himself. At the end of the novel when he found the treasure with what was remaining of the crew, Jim has a moment when he is thinking to himself: “…That was Flint’s treasure that we had come so far to seek, and that had cost already the lives of seventeen men from the Hispaniola. How many had it cost in the amassing, what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttles on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty, perhaps no man alive could tell”. He realizes what has happened in order for this treasure to be in the cave and for it to be in his hands, and he is considering if it is all worth it. Was all the gold and jewels really worth the bloodshed? Jim never intended for the people that went on the voyage to get hurt or die, but he feels guilt from it, especially from Israel Hands. This character was murdered by Jim but it was in self-defence as Hands tried to throw a spear and kill Jim first. This was a moment that Jim did regret it but it was not his fault. Greed does many different things to an individual and makes them do and think things that they wouldn’t typically be known for. In a previously written essay it has said that “In our lives greed is something that will make a person go above and beyond normal just to achieve more than what they already have”. Greed is one of the most common forms of human emotion that exist but is often hidden because it is seen as a negative trait. In the cases of these books, it is clear as to which characters face the most internal conflict, and it is represented in their actions and dialogue. The pirates, in particular, have the most difficult time masking their struggle because they have been raised the same way, to always want more.
After reading the novels and studying the concepts presented, greed does many things to the mind that have the potential to change an individual. It could be over a short period of time, as seen in Kinos story, or an extended period of time, which is viewed in Captain Flint’s tale. It can cause an innocent man to forget about the real values and treasures that life holds, and a selfish one to fall even deeper into despair and obsession. Overall, both of these important characters in the novels lost sight of themselves and what really matters.
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