THE PEARL by John Steinbeck is an apparently simple story about a family who lives in a South American village. Kino makes a living from diving for fish and pearls. He lives with his wife, Juana, and their baby boy, Coyotito, in a thatched hut, surrounded by their friends and family. They are poor and live a simple life, but they are happy. They are devoted to one another and live according to the customs and traditions of their people. Then Kino finds an enormous pearl. He thinks being rich will bring him happiness but is sadly mistaken. This is a story about greed, love and the different strengths of men and women. Loyalty, friendship and kinship are also strong themes. We are touched by Kino's bravery in defending his loved ones. Let's see how Steinbeck deals with three of these issues. 1. The evil of greed The doctor's character shows us the evil of greed. He is described as a fat, silly man who is not interested in curing people; he is only interested in how much money he can make from them in order to fund his love of luxury. Coyotito is bitten by a scorpion. The doctor refuses to treat him as Kino has no money. As soon as Kino finds the pearl, the doctor arrives and is now willing to provide medicine. In fact, the baby has already recovered, but the doctor gives some medicine to the boy to make him sick again. Similarly, the traders all conspire together in order to buy the pearl for a much lower price than it is worth. The desire for wealth leads people to cheat, deceive and lie. Read the descriptions of the doctor and his actions. How does Steinbeck make him appear evil? 2. Kino corrupted by greed Kino himself is corrupted by greed; this means he has become a bad man because of his love for money. He becomes obsessed with wealth and forgets all his old values. We see this most strikingly when he hits Juana. She has recognised what the pearl is doing to her husband and decides that she will get rid of it by throwing it back into the sea. Kino is enraged and hits her so hard that she falls over and he then kicks her. It is a graphic illustration of his corruption. His desire for the pearl is now stronger than his love for his wife. Find examples of Kino's devotion to his wife and child in the early part of the book. Find examples of his greed for wealth once he has found the pearl. 3. The breakdown of traditional values The village is a place of traditional values. Everyone knows their neighbour, and everyone can trust everyone else. But the pearl introduces the values of a town into this culture. Kino is awakened by men who are trying to steal the pearl. He has to be on his guard now and can no longer have a good night's sleep. The destruction of Kino's boat offers the most striking example of this breakdown in traditional values. The boat is the means of livelihood for the men in the village. To damage a boat is to commit a grave sin. What else do you learn about life in the village? Of the two locations in this book, where would you prefer to live: the town or the village? Why? 4. The song of the family When Kino and Juana return, it is the song of the family, or the song of life, that he hears. Kino realises that love and loyalty to his wife and family is the most important thing in life. He has learnt the lesson the hard way - he has killed four people and his baby is dead. In the end, he throws the pearl back into the sea. He has done what Juana tried to do earlier in the book. Had Kino listened to his wife, all the bloodshed could have been avoided, yet she forgives him. The novel ends on a positive note, with Kino finally realising what is really important in life.