Study Guide

The Pearl Good vs. Evil

By John Steinbeck

Good vs. Evil

No gray area here, guys. The Pearl as a parable, and good and evil are shown in absolute, black-and-white terms. The family is good; greed is evil. Love is good; destruction is evil. Oppressive colonization, corrupt capitalism, and racism all go on the "evil" list... which we have to say is a tad longer than the "good" one.

In this novel, the only thing that stands outside the clear evil vs. good dichotomy is the pearl itself—it simply reflects what is around it (which is, um, lots o' evil). That the pearl ends up reflecting evil is an indication of The Pearl’s grim view of the world.

Questions About Good vs. Evil

  1. Everyone seems to suffer from greed and selfish motives in The Pearl. Does that make them evil? If all the neighbors, doctors, priests, buyers, trackers, townsfolk are "bad," then how can we blame them for having what seem to be universal human traits?
  2. Is the pearl itself good, evil, or neither?
  3. Does good or evil triumph at the end of The Pearl?

Chew on This

Because The Pearl is so entrenched in its overly-simplistic views of good and evil, it is incapable of serving effectively as a critique of society’s flaws.

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