The Pearl – Notes In Progress

Themes

There are two key themes in The Pearl.

The first, and most significant is the idea of greed as a destructive force. Initially, we see the greed in those around Kino and his family, as people try to take advantage of his good fortune. However, as the novel progresses, Kino himself loses sight of his own goodness, and becomes obsessed with the money the pearl promises.

The second key theme is the role of fate and self-determinism. At different points in the novel, characters are able to make choices for themselves in order to change their lives. However, certain things occur which seem to be organised by a higher force, and the characters have no say in their occurrence.

Imagery

The novel makes heavy use of imagery in the natural world. At the start of the novel we see the beauty of the natural world in Kino’s garden, and its peaceful tone reflects the calm of the characters (this is called “pathetic fallacy”). In the second chapter we see many images of the sea, reflecting Kino’s struggle to make a living as a pearl diver.

It is important to see that the nature of the imagery changes as the novel progresses, so that in the latter stages most of the presentation of animals are intended to show that only the strongest and most aggressive survive – usually at the expense of those who are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves. This forms an analogy, as Steinbeck comments on how human beings are similarly aggressive in order to achieve success.

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