Study Guide

The Pearl Man and the Natural World

By John Steinbeck

Man and the Natural World

Ahh, Baja California. Sandy beaches. Azure waters. Trippy mirages that reflect a man's corrupt inner being.

Wait. What?

The natural world is not to be trusted in The Pearl. The setting is composed of dream-like visions that are false representations of reality. The novel suggests that man makes what he will of the natural world—he sees what he wants to see. That the pearl itself is a product of the natural world is further evidence that man can corrupt what was once beautiful and pure.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Is the natural world an enemy or a friend to Kino?
  2. How does Kino’s relationship with the natural world change over the course of the novel?
  3. How does the pearl act as a representation of the novel's attitude toward the natural world?

Chew on This

The mirage-like quality of the natural world presented in The Pearl argues that Kino can never be sure of anything: the pearl’s value, its "evil" nature, and the motives of those around him. This is his central predicament in the novella.

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