Study Guide

The Pearl Religion

By John Steinbeck


Corrupt priests. Ants dying without the mercy of divine intervention. Kino's life falling apart. Nope, religion is not something to be trusted or counted on in this novel.

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’s the difference?" especially given the detachment and indifference of divine power to human suffering. We get a rather condemning view of organized religion through one priest who uses religion to oppress the natives of La Paz and who tries to take advantage of the protagonist’s new-found wealth.

Questions About Religion

  1. Does The Pearl condemn religion? Is there a difference here between condemning this particular priest, this particular religion, and religion as a whole?
  2. Does The Pearl distinguish between faith and organized religion? What are its views on each?
  3. Does faith help Kino in any way? Does it help Juana?

Chew on This

Divine justice is served in The Pearl when Kino loses his son.

Coyotito’s death is a parody of divine justice, and proof that, in the world of the novella, the divine is either absent or uninvolved.

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