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The Pearl

The Pearl

by John Steinbeck

Man and the Natural World Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

The ants were busy on the ground, big black ones with shiny bodies, and little dusty quick ants. Kino watched with the detachment of God while a dusty ant frantically tried to escape the sand trap an ant lion had dug for him. (1.8)

God is detached to the plight of the ant the same way there is no divine help or consideration for Kino and his family when they are afflicted with suffering.

Quote #2

Although the morning was young, the hazy mirage was up. The uncertain air that magnified some things and blotted out others hung over the whole Gulf so that all sights were unreal and vision could not be trusted; so that sea and land had the sharp clarities and the vagueness of a dream. Thus it might be that the people of the Gulf trust things of the spirit and things of the imagination, but they do not trust their eyes to show them distance or clear outline or any optical exactness. Across the estuary from the town one section of mangroves stood clear and telescopically defined, while another mangrove clump was a hazy black-green blob. Part of the far shore disappeared into a shimmer that looked like water. There was no certainty in seeing, no proof that what you saw was there or was not there. And the people of the Gulf expected all places were that way, and it was not strange to them. A copper haze hung over the water, and the hot morning sun beat on it and made it vibrate blindingly. (2.4)

The image of the setting as mirage-like and deceptive sets the stage for the novel’s main symbol: the pearl. Appearances can be deceiving, since the pearl seems to be beautiful and valuable but brings nothing but suffering.

Quote #3

Now, Kino's people had sung of everything that happened or existed. They had made songs to the fishes, to the sea in anger and to the sea in calm, to the light and the dark and the sun and the moon, and the songs were all in Kino and in his people – every song that had ever been made, even the ones forgotten. And as he filled his basket the song was in Kino, and the beat of the song was his pounding heart as it ate the oxygen from his held breath, and the melody of the song was the gray-green water and the little scuttling animals and the clouds of fish that flitted by and were gone. (2.12)

The melody and harmony Kino feels here with the natural world is eventually destroyed by the greed of humans.

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