January 30, 2005

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

book coverI read some Steinbeck in high school as assigned reading and he was okay. As an adult I happened to read his Sweet Thursday and acquired a new appreciation of his writing. The Pearl is one of the books I had to read as a kid and I have to say that I enjoyed it a lot more reading it for pleasure.

Kino is a pearl diver. He lives in a hut with his woman Juana and their infant son Coyotito. The baby is stung by a scorpion. They have no money to pay the doctor. Kino prays that he should find a pearl sufficient to save his son's life. His prayer is answered too well when he finds the pearl of pearls. It is a pearl to inspire dreams in its owner and avarice in all others. It brings Kino and his family no good.

Steinbeck is a writer who can somehow give the effect of minimalism while using heaps of artful ornament. He writes with layer upon layer of meaning and ends up with a page turner. It's great stuff.

I'm not going to try to analyze the book. I think I already did that when I read it in high school. I will say that it seems like the early part of the book over-romanticizes the poverty that Kino and his fellow divers live under. The other thing that struck me as I read it was the similarities between this story of the corruption of men's souls wrought by a talisman of great power and that other story that can be described thus: The Lord of the Rings. Steinbeck's treatment of the material leans much more toward the tragic. It's also significantly shorter.

Posted by jeffy at January 30, 2005 11:09 PM