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The Pearl

The Pearl

by John Steinbeck

Analysis: Genre

Folklore, Legend, and Mythology; Parable; Literary Fiction

Steinbeck based The Pearl in part on a legend he heard during a six-week expedition in the Sea of Cortez. Elements of the story, then, have been passed down as part of folklore – which means the novella itself belongs to that tradition. We call it a "parable" because the story is fairly simple in nature (Man finds pearl; pearl destroys man) but illustrates a larger, moralistic truth (greed will corrupt and destroy all that is good in the world). What’s interesting is Steinbeck’s twist on this classic parable in the light of a more modern topic: the American Dream, which means his tale is not only parable for the ages, but a parable for our particular age.

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