© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Pearl

The Pearl


by John Steinbeck

The Pearl Theme of Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

If you've even seen the musical of Les Miserables, you know how depressing the phrase "I Dreamed A Dream" can be. But the dreams in The Pearl are every bit as grim as those found in Les Mis.

The Pearl is often hailed as a critique of the American Dream. It argues that opportunity is not equal, and that such an idealistic notion is impossible in a corrupt, imperfect world. Though the main characters in the novel are destroyed because of their pursuit of a better life, the novella in no way condemns dreaming or the desire for something more. The text explicitly says that the ability to want more is the defining characteristic of man—it is what separates him from mere animals.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

  1. Are Kino’s dreams self-centered or self-less?
  2. Owning a rifle is the only one of Kino’s dreams that is fulfilled at the end of the novel. What do you make of that?
  3. How can Steinbeck write a novel in which a man is ruined by his dreaming, and yet not condemn dreaming?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Because Kino gives up on his dream at the end of the text (signified by throwing the pearl back into the ocean), it is at this moment – not earlier – that he becomes an animal rather than a human being.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...