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The Pearl by John Steinbeck
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The Pearl (original 1947; edition 1970)

by John Steinbeck

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8,370136371 (3.48)1 / 315
Member:adrndack
Title:The Pearl
Authors:John Steinbeck
Info:Pan Books (1970), Edition: New Impression, Paperback, 96 pages
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The Pearl by John Steinbeck (1947)

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English (122)  French (3)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (136)
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During 1940 Steinbeck, along with his friend Ed Ricketts, set sail for six weeks. The two traveled from "Monterey up the west shore of the Gulf of California to Angeles Bay and then across to Puerto San Carlos east and south to Agiabampo Estuary." The result of their travels being Steinbeck's and Ricketts' Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research.

After a night of beers with natives of La Paz on the Isla Espiritu Santo, Steinbeck and Ricketts' were invited to check out the town of La Paz. It is amidst Steinbeck's account of the three days spent in La Paz that he mentions the story that he would eventually rewrite as The Pearl.

Initially a tale of a boy and his pearl seeking his divine three (clothes, booze, and sex), Steinbeck rewrote his Pearl into parablesque form. Playing on the biblical parable of The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46 NKJV) he layers this short but significant read with the voices, songs, and characters of Kino, Juana, and Coyotito.

In Kino we have a father that carries the weight of the wealth and health of his small family and the village, both neighbors and extended family, they live in. His character is complemented by Juana with whom Steinbeck exhibits the wisdom of the mother and the pragmatist, the active nurturer of both husband and son. Both parents have strength and intensely delineated merit in their presumed roles in both village and home but Steinbeck does a very good job of furthering this and letting it flower into the reality of a relationship. Even as it becomes a relationship strained.

The reader is quickly dosed with the vulnerability of Coyotito and, in turn, his parents and the balance of their life, the "Song of the Family," by a scorpion sting. But it wouldn't be Steinbeck if it didn't have layers! Coyotito is also an embodiment of joy, hope, and then grief. The child coming in and out of focus as we travel along with Kino on his trek through psychological development. The weight and shadow of Kino and Juana's return to their village and the pearl's return to the ocean.

I think Steinbeck's parable of the fallacies of a materialistic culture is important and well written. It's very much the tossed pebble rippling of the pond; his layering of characters, situation, action is awesome. I was surprised at how much depth his use of melody added to my connection with the story. It added a primal feel; a glow of the often told legend as it sparks from lips around a fire and resonates.

I think The Pearl is a new favorite. Which is something I seem to say after every Steinbeck I read. I can't help it; Steinbeck does rawness, hope, grief, strength, futility, 'regular' folk, and the importance of the shining humane act so well. His writing makes me want to reach out into the world and change something, change myself.
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  lamotamant | Jun 23, 2016 |

Read it and philosophize while you read it and weep.

Sometimes I have to wonder what the people who write the back blurbs of these books are thinking (or smoking). The back says "THE PEARL is a book to be read many times and cherished forever." What they're talking about, I can't imagine. If you choose to get pissed over and over again, then by all means keep reading this tragic story.

I get what Steinbeck is saying in his beautiful writing voice - to be content with what is had and to not let the lure of greed drift you too far out, lest you lose everything. It's kind of like the principle of this ridiculous short story we had to read in elementary school - I can't remember it's name, but the point of the story that the teacher and book taught irritated me then too. I get what he's saying, I just don't agree with his perspective.

What I take from this fable is that a man gets a break in luck in fortune, something he hopes for in order to save his child's life and better the life of him and his wife. People try to steal and rip from him his fortune with THEIR greed, and he stands strong and tries to fight back, refusing to bow to the injustice of thievery, deceit, and people trying to suck out the joy in others lives. It's a matter of principle to try and protect fortune that comes your way, whether through blessing or hard work or that rare stroke of genius. There is no shame in fighting back against the tides of unfairness to protect what is yours and to work toward something better.

I can't bring myself to rate something higher than 3 stars if it pissed me off with its ending, but I can respect this book because it's John freaking Steinbeck, it's a fable that's so well done it may as well define the word 'fable' in the dictionary, and because it wasn't only the alluring pull of the pearl that kept drawing me further in.


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  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
John Steinbeck as an author is didactic, moralistic and depressingly bleak, and when he pulls this off – as with my three previous Steinbeck experiences: Of Mice and Men, The Moon is Down and The Grapes of Wrath – the results are extremely impressive. But when he doesn't necessarily pull it off, as with The Pearl, the results are mild at best.

The problem with this little novella is that it is a parable, but one in which the central moral lesson is not very substantial. It is not, as some reviewers suggest, a warning against greed and the dangers of sudden wealth, although there are one or two passages which hint at this. For you see, whilst greed does arise among Kino's community after the discovery of the pearl, it does not really affect him personally. If the reader is to be instructed by the story, it is by what happens to Kino, and all he wants is to sell the pearl and provide for his family – an education for his infant son, for example. He is not greedy; he is just using his good fortune to improve his life. That would be a nice moral, wouldn't it? If he banished all the temptations of sudden wealth and used the pearl to try and provide a future for his family?

This is what Kino does try to do. Unfortunately, the general progress of the plot, and a rather explicit outline of Steinbeck's moral on pages 61-2, suggests that Kino is wrong to aspire to better; the world beats him down, steals from him and cheats him. He should know his damn place. Moral: don't try to rise above your station. Wealth is not meant for the likes of you. Kino behaves decently throughout; it is the world that screws him over.

Now, as I said before, Steinbeck's writing is always depressing (just read The Grapes of Wrath) and, to be honest, Kino's story would probably have played out the same in real life as it did here. If a desperately poor, illiterate fisherman did find a valuable pearl, people would try to screw him over, and given the state of the world and the malign pressures it can bring upon the innocent, and the perverse desire it seems to take in abusing the kind-hearted, they would probably succeed in doing so. Steinbeck recognises this, but where he errs is in thinking he had found a moral there. Steinbeck seems to be saying: OK, the world will screw you over if you step out of line. So… keep your head down? Know your place? Don't fight against injustice? This doesn't sound like the same Steinbeck who railed so venomously against social injustices in The Grapes of Wrath, and warned that the poor won't stand for being kicked around much longer. Never before have I been so confused by such a simple story as I have by The Pearl. Maybe Steinbeck was having a crisis of confidence over whether his socialist worldview would bear fruit, and in response wrote an angry little story in which a poor man is relentlessly beat into the ground and loses everything, with no hope of recourse or remedy. I don't know. All I know is the story is a parable, and when the central message fails, it becomes hard to see much else of value in it. I've read a fair bit of Steinbeck and will continue to do so, but this seems like a mis-step. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
I just finished the book also. You wrote an accurate review of the brief novella, The Pearl”. Nino, his family and the Indian civilization lived in poverty. Their brush huts with dirt floors is all they had to keep them out of the dangers of the dark nights. However, not safe from everything. Nino’s baby boy Coyotito got bit by a scorpion. Juana the baby’s mother put her mouth on the bite and sucked hard and spat out many times while her baby screamed. Just a ways from their home was the village where the doctor lived. A lot of these people were not kind to them. When Nino went to ask for help from the doctor he was told that the doctor suddenly was whisked away on another emergency…..some time after that the story goes on to tell how Nino found the ancient oyster shell with what they were calling the “Pearl of the World”. Nino’s dreams have been answered, or have they……..

These words have been said ….The story of the pearl being found and then lost led others to believe there is only good and bad , black and white, good and evil things and no in-betweens anywhere………..my question….. Is this not true?…………
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  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
The Pearl – John Steinbeck narrated by Frank Muller

4 stars
The Pearl is a novella about the destructive power of found riches. The story concerns the poverty stricken native family of Kino and Juanita who earn a subsistence living from the pearl beds in a tropical lagoon. As brief as the story is; it is difficult to continue reading (or in this case, listening) because the inevitable tragedy is foreshadowed from the beginning. This piece builds like a lush orchestral suite, as Steinbeck writes of the song of the family, the song of the village and the song of the pearl. Frank Muller’s narration of this edition fits perfectly with the language and the pacing of the story.
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  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (114 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Steinbeckprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baldiz, FranciscoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elizondo, HectorNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goedegebuure, JaapIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muller, FrankNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orozco, Jose ClementeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veltman-Boissevain, E.D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wagner-Martin, LindaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kino woke up early in the morning.
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It is said that human beings are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142000698, Paperback)

Make this your next book club selection and everyone saves.
Get 15% off when you order 5 or more of this title for your book club.
Simply enter the coupon code STEINBECKPEARL at checkout.
This offer does not apply to eBook purchases. This offer applies to only one downloadable audio per purchase.

In this short book illuminated by a deep understanding and love of humanity, John Steinbeck retells an old Mexican folk tale: the story of the great pearl, how it was found, and how it was lost. For the diver Kino, finding a magnificent pearl means the promise of a better life for his impoverished family. His dream blinds him to the greed and suspicions the pearl arouses in him and his neighbors, and even his loving wife cannot temper his obsession or stem the events leading to the tragedy.

For Steinbeck, Kino and his wife illustrate the fall from innocence of people who believe that wealth erases all problems. Originally published in 1947, The Pearl shows why Steinbeck’s style has made him one of the most beloved American writers: it is a simple story of simple people, recounted with the warmth and sincerity and unrivaled craftsmanship Steinbeck brings to his writing. It is tragedy in the great tradition, beautifully conveying not despair but hope for mankind.

The Great Books Foundation Discussion Guide for The Pearl is available at www.greatbooks.org.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:46 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

For the diver Kino, finding a magnificent pearl means the promise of better life for his impoverished family. His dream blinds him to the greed and suspicions the pearl arouses in him and his neighbors, and even his loving wife cannot temper his obsession or stem the events leading to tragedy. Kino and his wife illustrate the fall from innocence of people who believe that wealth erases all problems.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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