“The Pearl” is a short book, called a “parable” even, by one of my favorite, classic authors – John Steinbeck. I’ve taken to his earthy, simple writing style and have read a few of his books – “Cannery Row”, “East of Eden”, “Of Mice and Men”, and “The Grapes of Wrath.” “The Pearl” was first published in Dec 1945, and was suggested for readers “age 12 and up”; it was published in Woman’s Home Companion magazine. By 1988, it had gone through 109 printings! As with his other books, this one drew me in, created very real characters, and made me concerned for their well-being.
With “The Pearl”, Steinbeck sets his story somewhere on the Gulf (presumably “of Mexico”, though it’s never explicitly stated). His main characters are a couple – Kino and Juana – and their child, Coyotito. Kino is a pearl-diver, exploring the reefs to find pearls to sell in the nearby town. In the course of his diving, he finds “the pearl of the world”, an impossibly large pearl. The story follows the changes in Kino’s relationships with the other townspeople and what happens to his family as they try to deal with those changes. Steinbeck avoids sermonizing or telling people how to behave; he just lays out a narrative and allows the reader to make their own sense of what happens. It seems pretty in keeping with Steinbeck’s famous quote: “There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.”