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The Pearl Themes
Little Words, Big Ideas
Steinbeck paints an incredibly simplistic portrait of greed in The Pearl. It is always evil, it always corrupts, and it brings nothing but suffering. All competition in this novel is unhealthy, and...
Family is idealized in The Pearl – it is "warmth […], safety […], the Whole." Main character Kino protects his family above all else, even the self, and he does so with an almost...
Much of The Pearl is about pursuing wealth and the dangers that such an endeavor brings. Because wealth is so highly valued (for no good reason, the novella argues), men make extraordinary sacrific...
Good vs. Evil
In viewing The Pearl as a parable, good and evil can be seen in very absolute terms. The family is good; greed is evil. Love is good; destruction is evil. Oppressive colonization, corrupt capitalis...
There is no ambiguity in gender roles in The Pearl. The male is the leader of the household. He is dominant, he is the decision-maker, and the family’s welfare rests solely on his shoulders....
The Pearl traces the transformation of man from a civilized being to his most primitive form. This change is instigated by the threat of danger. Animalistic instinct takes over, and morality, laws,...
Man and the Natural World
The natural world is not to be trusted in The Pearl. The setting is composed of mirages, dream-like visions that are false representations of reality. The novel suggests that man makes what he will...
Corrupted power features in The Pearl as the nasty reality of colonial domination and oppression. The Mexican natives of La Paz live on the outskirts of a town of colonizing Europeans, greedy men w...
Religion in The Pearl is an amalgamation of the natives’ belief in superstition, luck, and "the gods" with the colonizing Europeans’ faith in one "God." The novel effectively asks "what...
Dreams, Hopes, and Plans
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 ma...
The Pearl argues that events are essentially arbitrary – it just comes down to luck. In the universe of this story, tragedy is explainable, irrational, and unjust. The characters grasp at str...
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