Money and Happiness in John Steinbeck’s The Pearl Summary

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Occasionally, too much wealth can satisfy an individual’s heart desires but oftentimes, it can bring the worst out of him or her. In the book, The Pearl by John Steineck, it shows that even simple actions can greatly impact one’s life. The story is about a family that lives in La Paz, Mexico where the husband, Kino provides for his wife and child by pearl diving. When Kino and Juana’s firstborn child, Coyotito, is stung by a scorpion, their finances are not high enough to obtain treatment.

The doctor, therefore, refuses to help Coyotito because of their lack of money and race. So, Kino goes pearl diving in the hopes of finding a pearl large enough to pay for treatment. Luckily he is able to find one. Little does Kino know, the pearl will be the death of him and his family. The author’s craft used through the technique of symbolism is developed by the pearl, the doctor, and the rifle to build a mood.

In the story, the first symbol the author used is the doctor, he symbolizes arrogance. When the doctor first met with Kino he didn’t want to help Coyotito because of their race and lack of money. Like the other colonists, the doctor wants nothing to do with the natives and Kino. He has come to La Paz only for the money, and when he figures out he isn’t receiving any he wants to escape back to Paris.

A doctor’s job is to assist whoever needs their help, however, the doctor carries out no such duty when met with someone who is considered beneath him. The first piece of evidence is when the doctor refuses to help Coyotito, the doctor demands, “No, they never have any money. I, I alone in the world am supposed to work for nothing— and I am tired of it. See if he has any money!” The doctor represents arrogance fueled by the desire for financial gain, which caused him to care more about money than caring for Coyotito.

After Kino had discovered the pearl everyone had found out, including the doctor. The doctor visited Kino and said, “I will give him something to try and turn the poison aside,” His desire for financial profit prevented him from treating Coyotito, but just when he seeks a chance to receive money he rushes to Coyotito’s rescue. However, the doctor does not even help Coyotito, he poisons him just to get money because Kino thought he cured him. In the novel, the doctor symbolizes arrogance which distorts his human values.

The second symbol the author uses is the pearl which represents greed. A sentence to support that statement is: “All manner of people grew interested in Kino—people with things to sell and people with favors to ask. Kino had found the Pearl of the World.” When the news spread that Kino had found a pearl, the people of the town pondered on how his good fortune could benefit them, they envied him. They didn’t care how bad the pearl might have been; they were greedy for it and would do anything to get it. Another piece of evidence to support greed was when Kino hit Juana, the story said, “He struck her in the face with his clenched fist and she fell among the boulders, and he kicked her in the side.” Juana is aware of the evil the pearl had brought to their family and tries to get rid of it before it is too late.

Kino realizes when he can no longer fix what he has done. At this point in the story, Kino felt as if he couldn’t trust anyone, not even the people he cares for the most. The pearl possesses Kino’s soul and represents a new lifestyle he never would have thought of.

That lifestyle is forgotten when the greed from the pearl destroys any or all happiness in their lives. When Kino discovers the pearl, it immediately leads to the destruction of everything he cherishes deeply, which is the exact opposite of what he thought the pearl would provide him. The pearl symbolizes greed which had caused Kino to choose money over happiness resulting in a drastic change in his life.

Lastly, another symbol that is shown in the story is the rifle, which represents catastrophic change. When Kino first found the pearl, the one bad thing he wished to purchase with the money was a rifle. He stated this, “Perhaps a rifle.” Kino wanted a rifle to show power over the rest of his village and to protect his family. If Kino would have gotten a rifle it would have affected the whole town. The poor would feel unsafe and the rich would feel as if they no longer had power over the poor. Another piece of evidence was when the rifle had shot and killed Coyotito, it stated, “Kino was in mid-leap when the gun crashed and the barrel-flash made a picture on his eyes.” The one thing Kino wanted to buy to protect his family ended up wrecking them instead. The natural order of life is that parents will never live to see their children perish; however, Coyotito changed that.

His death had caused a catastrophic change in their life because he was Kino’s first and only child, and he was the one thing Juana had of value in her life. The rifle had represented catastrophic change, it was the source of evil that had ruined Juana and Kino’s life. They must live with the fact that it was because of evil and greed, sparked by the pearl, that had destroyed their lives.

In the book, the author uses the technique of symbolism to elaborate on the pearl, the doctor, and the rifle. As a result of the symbols used in the book, readers should learn that someone should never take things for granted and appreciate the importance of everything in life. A person can never know when something or someone they cherish will be gone forever. Money may seem valuable but the one thing it can not buy is happiness. The unexpected wealth Kino had to surface was luck at first, however, it left readers thinking about if it should have even been Kino to be granted it in the first place.


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Money and Happiness in John Steinbeck’s The Pearl Summary. (2020, Sep 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/money-and-happiness-in-john-steinbecks-the-pearl/

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