Study Guide

The Pearl Writing Style

By John Steinbeck

Writing Style

Filmic, Rhythmic, Legend-like

Steinbeck originally conceived of The Pearl as a film, and you can definitely tell by reading it. You’ve got everything from camera pans to a thematic musical score:

And Kino thrust the pearl back into his clothing, and the music of the pearl had become sinister in his ears, and it was interwoven with the music of evil. (6.16 – 6.17)

The words themselves have a sense of rhythm that makes reading an agreeable experience. But most of all, the story reads like a legend, like a tale being told orally:

But the priest was speaking again. "It has come to me that thou hast found a great fortune, a great pearl."

Kino opened his hand and held it out, and the priest gasped a little at the size and beauty of the pearl. And then he said, "I hope thou wilt remember to give thanks, my son, to Him who has given thee this treasure, and to pray for guidance in the future." (3.24 – 3.25)

The language is clear and unambiguous; it will rhapsodize on the nature of greed or desire, but still digress to the level of the detail.

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