Steinbeck, John Ernst - The Pearl

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2000

5 Pages


1) Introduction

John Ernst Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was born in 1902, in Salinas, California. He was of Westfalian descent on his father's side, his father was half- German, and of Irish on his mother's side. He studied at Stanford University for some years (from 1919 to 1925), and took particular interest in biology, a course of studies that taught him how to make exact observations. He did not, how-ever, pass any final examination.

He looked for work in all possible spheres, particularly in the country where he got to know the conditions under which farm- hands had to work. Later he got jobs in New York, which were in no way different from the usual jobs taken up by unskilled workers in America. He worked as a dish-washer, a bricklayer, a porter and finally as a newspaper-reporter.

John Steinbeck wrote a great deal, but remained fairly unknown till he got the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, a distinction which, for the first time, drew the attention of the public to him. He received the prize for his exiting novel “The Grapes of Wrath". In 1962 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in1968 in New York.

Other works of Steinbeck:

- Cup of Gold (1929)
- The Pastures of Heaven (1932)
- To a God Unknown (1933)
- Tortilla Flat (1935)
- Dubious Battle (1936)
- Saint Kathy, the Virgin (1936)
- Of Mice and Men (1937)
- The Red Pony (1937)
- The Long Valley (1938)
- The Forgotten Village (1941)
- The Sea of Cortez (1941)
- Bombs Away: The Story of Bomber Team (1942)
- The Moon is down (1942)
- Cannery Row (1944)

2) Summary

And finally there is his little story The Pearl (1948), a simple, well constructed and yet exciting story about the world of primitive, naive human beings. A simple fisherman, Kino, together with his wife Juana and the baby Coyotito, is torn from his environment by finding a pearl and thrown into a new world completely strange to him, in which right has been turned into wrong. There is not a word, not a sentence in this story that has not been deeply felt by the author; men and animals, even the dead things breathe out an equally strong sense of life. In the town they tell the story of the great pearl - how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story has been told so often, it has taken root in every man's mind. And as with all retold tales that are in people's hearts, there are only good and bad things and no in-between anywhere. ,,If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it. In any case, they say in the town that . . ."


I. Chapter

Kino lives with his wife Juana and his son Coyotito in La Paz, a town which lies at the coast.

They are poorly off there, but happy. They cannot give very much to their son, but they can give him the most important thing: love.

One day Coyotito is stung by a scorpion and, a baby like Coyotito can easily die of that. Coyotito is the firstborn and almost everything that belongs to Juana and Kino. The parents are terribly worried about Coyotito and so they do everything to help the baby. They go to the doctor, but he is a white man and he also helps only white men, besides, Kino has no money to pay the doctor.

II. Chapter

Now Kino wants to find a pearl to be able to pay the doctor and he believes that Coyotito will die if he does not find a pearl.

The one valuable thing that Kino owns is his canoe. He got it from his father and his father inherited it from his grandfather. The canoes are made of a hard shell- like plaster by a secret method that has also come to him from his father.

In this boat Kino, Juana and the sick baby Coyotito go out on the sea to look for pearls. Juana gathers some brown seaweed and puts it on Coyotito's swollen shoulder. That is a better remedy than the doctor could give it but they do not believe it, because it does not cost anything. Then Kino takes a basket and dives to the ground. There he lifts some oysters and puts then into the basket, then he sees an open one and he believes that he has seen a pearl inside. Then the oyster closes, it is a very big one, Kino lifts it, puts it into the basket and goes back into the boat. There he opens the oysters with a knife. In the large one he sees a very big and pretty pearl. He cannot believe it at first. The pearl is as large as a seagull's egg. It is the biggest pearl in the world. Kino has found the greatest pearl of the world.

But that is not the only luck. When they regard Coyotito, they see that the swelling is going out of the baby's shoulder, the poison is receding from its body.

III. Chapter

In the town it spreads quickly, that Kino has found the greatest and most beautiful pearl in the world, and so, after some time, everybody is informed about it.

A lot of man are happy with Kino, because Kino is their friend, but also a lot of men want to get Kino's pearl. So some try to become Kino's fiends quickly, while others think that they can get the pearl when they kill Kino.

Also the doctor knows in no time at all that Kino is now the owner of a very big, and maybe even very valuable, pearl . So the doctor sets off to Kino's hut, to treat Coyotito there for his scorpion sting. When the Doc sees that Coyotito is already well, he gives him some white powder, which makes the baby ill, and an hour later doctor returns and gives the baby again something so that he becomes well again. So the doctor can say, that he has saved the baby's life from the scorpion sting.

In the following night Kino is attacked for the first time. Someone breaks into the house and there he wants to steal the pearl. But Kino can stab the wicked man with his knife so that he flees. Juana now realises that the pearl will destroy them, but Kino does not want to hear anything about that.

IV. Chapter

The next morning Kino wants to sell his pearl. He goes with his brother Juan Tomás into the town where a lot of pearl buyers live. But in reality there is only one pearl buyer and the other ones are his employers. They cheat the pearl fishers and pay them much lower prices than they should get. But Kino does not know that.

The pearl buyers say to him that it is not a real pearl and they want to give him only 1000 pesos. But Kino knows that his pearl is worth more and so he does not sell them his pearl. His brother Juan Tomás also says to him that Kino should better go to the capital to sell his pearl there.

V. Chapter

But in the next night Kino is attacked again. He is wounded but he can so defeat his enemy.

Juana is afraid and she fears that something will happen to Kino or that he may even be killed. Therefore she takes the pearl and goes to the shore. She wants to throw the pearl back into the sea. But at the last moment Kino can check her and takes the pearl. But in the next night Kino is attacked again. He is wounded but he can defeat his enemy once again. Juana is afraid and so she talks to him and she tries again to persuade him to give the pearl away. When he comes back to his house, he is attacked there again, by one of his enemies. But now Kino is so angry that he kills him. Therefore his enemies destroy Kino's boat and burn down his house. So Kino has to stay at his brother Juan Tomás`s house. His brother warns him once more that the pearl only brings bad luck, but Kino all the same does not separate him from the pearl. In the following night Kino, Juana and their baby Coyotito set off to the capital.

VI. Chapter

In the night Juana and Kino hear noises and so they get awake. Kino sees three men, who follow his wife and him. So Kino, Juana and their little son Coyotito clear off, they disappear into the mountains.

In one of the following nights, Kino decides to attack the three truckers. During the fight one of the truckers' shoots Coyotito. Kino kills the truckers, and later Juana and Kino return home, to the little fishing village la Paz.

In the end Kino throws the pearl back into the sea.

3) Analysis of some aspects of the story

Main Characters


The pearl changed also Kino a lot. Formally he and his family had only to fear poverty, but later they had to fear death.


She is Kino's wife. Juana very early realises that the pearl brings more bad than good luck to her family. She very often tries to persuade her husband Kino to leave the pearl, but he did not listen.


He is Juana's and Kino's little baby.

Juan Tomás

He is Kino's brother. He realises also that the pearl is not exactly the best thing what has ever happened to his brother. But nevertheless he backs up Kino all the time.

Structure of the Book

The book has six chapters and about 80 pages.

Steinbeck did not use a lot of dialogues in this book but, of course, it includes some. It does not include any monologues.

The book is written chronological by and told from a third person’s point of view.


The story tells us about poor people’s lack of experience. They do not realise that people are just friendly to take some advantage of something or somebody. It is a great surprise to Kino to realise that othe r people are not just happy with him because he has found the pearl and become rich. At this particular moment he can see who is a real friend. The majority of people just pretends to be his friend. But the only thing they want to get is the pearl. Some bad people do not even hesitate to try to kill him. So the pearl opens Kino's eyes and enables him to distinguish between good and bad people, real and false friends.

4) Comment

Personal comment

I think, one can take the Pearl as a parable or as a limpid narrative whose meaning is much deeper than one would suspect.

I learned from this book that one should be happy with that what one has got. As Kino found the pearl he wanted always to have more and more. But actually the pearl did not give him anything, but diprived him of many things: not only material ones but also of his son. I liked this book very much, not only because it was so easy to read.

Language which was Used

I liked the book a lot, because it really was easy to understand. I almost understood every single word, and in general the book was very easy to read.

When one reads the book, one notices Steinbeck's attachment to nature. Steinbeck describes the nature of California in this book.

Excerpt out of 5 pages


Steinbeck, John Ernst - The Pearl
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ISBN (eBook)
File size
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Steinbeck, John, Ernst, Pearl
Quote paper
Anna Peterka (Author), 2000, Steinbeck, John Ernst - The Pearl, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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