Check out my The Pearl book summary and review that I created to help you understand the basics of this great book. The Pearl is a novel by American author John Steinbeck. The story, first published in 1947, follows a pearl diver, Kino, and explores human motives as well as greed, disobedience to social norms, and evil.

Steinbeck's inspiration was La Paz, Baja California Sur, a Mexican folktale from Mexico, which he heard on a trip to the pearl-rich region before 1940.

The Pearl book

The book was adapted into a Mexican film called La Perla (1947) and a cult Kannada film Ondu Muttina Kathe (1987). The story is one of Steinbeck's most popular books and has been widely used in middle and high school classes. Pearls are sometimes regarded as an illustration.

The Pearl book summary :

The Pearl, set to the tune of La Paz, Baja California, begins with a description of the seemingly idealistic family life of poor pearl fisherman Kino, his wife Juana and their infant son Coyote. Kino sees Coyotito sleeping, but sees a scorpion crawling under a rope that holds the hanging box where Quito is sleeping. Kino tries to catch the scorpion, but Quotito pushes the rope and the scorpion falls on him.

Although Kino kills the scorpion, it stings Kyoto. Juana and Kino, along with their neighbors, visit a local doctor who refuses to treat Quito because Kino can't pay enough to maintain the greedy doctor's lifestyle, and because the doctor has a racist attitude towards poor Americans.

Kino and Juana take Coyoto to the sea, where Juana uses a seaweed poultice on Coyoto's shoulder, which is now swollen. Kino dives for oysters from his pond, hoping to find a pearl to pay the doctor. He finds a very large oyster that gives a giant pearl and which he calls the "pearl of the world".

The news that Kino had found a huge pearl quickly spread through the city of La Paz. Kino's neighbors begin to feel bitter for his good fortune, but neither Kino nor Juana understands the feeling that they were born. Kino's brother Juan Thomas asks him what he will do with his money and Kino imagines marrying Juana to a church and wearing a yachting cap and sailor suit to Kyoto.

He claims he will send Coyotito to school and buy himself a rifle. The local priest, hearing the news, visits and tells Kino to remember to thank and pray for guidance. The doctor also visits, and although Coyotito appears to be healing, the doctor insists that Coyotito is still in danger and treats him. Kino tells the doctor that he will pay him after selling his pearl, and the doctor tries to figure out where the pearl is. (Kino buried it in the corner of his hut.)

That night, a thief tries to break into Kino's hut, but Kino chases him away. Juana warns Kino that the pearl will destroy them, but Kino insists that the pearl is an opportunity for them to have a better life and that they will sell it tomorrow.

The next day, Kino goes to sell his pearls. Unknown to her and all the pearl fishermen, the pearl dealers in La Paz are all employees of a single purchasing company. Dealers are hired to show that prices are competitive when, in fact, they are kept low, and locals are deceived.

The sellers are aware through the gossip of the city that a big pearl has been found and have agreed to pretend it is a crazy and worthless thing. They offer Kino a thousand pesos for a pearl, which Kino believes is worth fifty thousand. Kino refuses to sell the pearls to traders and decides to move to the capital instead. That night, Kino is attacked by more thieves, and Juana reminds him again that the pearl is bad. However, Kino promises that he will not be deceived.

Later that night, Juana tries to throw the pearl into the sea, but Kino finds her and beats her to do it. A group of men accuse Kino and snatch the pearl from his hand. Kino defends himself with his knife. Juana looks up from a distance and then sees Kino approaching her, licking her lips. A thief whose throat is lying dead in a bush.

Juana finds the pearl on the way, and the couple decides they should leave, even though the murder was for self-defense, as they won't get a fair hearing. Kino then finds that his canoe has been vandalized, their home searched, and the crumbling structure set on fire. The family took refuge with Kino's brother Juan Thomas and Juan's wife Apollonia. The next day, after leaving for the capital at night, they went into hiding.

Kino and Juana travel all night and find a secret place to rest in the bushes when dawn comes. Kino is afraid to chase and when he looks back, he sees a man with a rifle on his horse and two skilled trackers on his feet, spotted on a dirt road in the distance. Trekkers miss Kino and Juana's carefully hidden place and continue on the road.

 Kino knows that they will return to search more thoroughly, so he and Juana leave the road and go to the mountains where they know they will leave less tracks on the rocky ground. They find a cave to hide above the water pond. In the evening the trekkers come and camp by the pool below them. Kino and Juana realize that the trackers will eventually find them and kill them to hide their guilt after stealing the pearls.

Juana and Coyote hide in the cave while Kino goes to the trackers with his knife. As Kino approached the unseen, the trackers heard a baby crying. They assume that it is merely a coyote dog and by its monotonous boredom shoot.

Kino panics at that moment, thinking that the trackers will find Kyoto. He attacks the tracker, who tries to shoot him with a rifle but misses. Kiyono killed all three in a frenzy. However, he soon discovers that random shots fired by trackers hit and killed the Coyote.

Heartbroken, Juana and Kino return to La Paz. The two go to the bay, and Kino looks at the pearl for the last time and sees a picture of a coyote whose head has been shot. Kino throws the pearl into the sea in pain. It sinks to the bottom and is soon buried in the sand.

The Pearl book review :

I was hesitant to write a review for this book because I didn't think I had much to say about it. My mother warned me that it was 'sad' and she was right; This is not exactly a happy story. In fact, I'm wondering if John Steinbeck ever wrote something remotely enthusiastic.

Of the three books I have read by this author, this is the one I feel most indifferent to. I didn't think the main characters like George and Lenny were very well defined in Off Mice and Men, and the main character Kino was hard to take care of; He was a sympathetic beast who treated his wife like shit.

At the beginning of the book, Kino and his wife Juana bite their infant son with a scorpion and Kino goes hunting for pearls which he can sell to pay for the child's treatment. At first glance what might seem like a stroke of miraculous good fortune, Kino finds a giant pearl that he believes can make him a lot of money.

 Kino sees the pearl as a way to lead a better life and pay for the education of his son Coyote. Surprisingly, things soon get terribly wrong and Juana begins to believe that the pearl is cursed. He wants to settle it but Kino makes it clear that he has no intention of letting it happen.

The book really has three main characters - Kino, Juana and Coyote. Coyotito isn't old enough to talk yet, but he's the biggest inspiration for Juana and Kino, even though he doesn't really do much.

 Kino in particular doesn't want her son to live like her. Juana was a potential favorite character, but I didn't feel that she was particularly good. She was firmly entrenched in the dual role of loving mother and long-suffering wife, but she didn't really feel like her own person.

She seems capable and takes immediate action if the scorpion bites her baby, but she stays with someone who beats her and gives her an excuse for her actions. I hope she would come in on her own and hit Kino on the head with a frying pan like a fried green tomato, but she seemed perfectly accustomed to her husband's abuse. I’m not angry about it because it’s, unfortunately, a key element of a lot of violent relationships.

I just wanted Juana Kino to have the strength to leave or fight. I guess Kino's only redeeming quality was his love for his son, but he was still a complete dick. Although I didn't pay much attention to the main characters in The Pearl, I think the story was interesting. Like the other books I read at Steinbeck, I thought it was exceptionally good. The plot progressed so fast that something interesting happened on almost every page, and there was no external fluff.

The climax of the book was sad and frightening, but it did not affect me as much as you might expect. The ending made me think that the pearl was really cursed or it was the actions of the characters that broke everything. I would say it was all people, and that 'curse' probably didn't exist without the size of human greed. In the end, though, it is open to interpretation by the reader.


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