Allegory In John Steinbeck's The Pearl

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Kino, the protagonist of The Pearl, is an impoverished, simple, hardworking, and content family man but changes into a greedy and selfish man. He lives with his wife, Juana, and his first-born baby, Coyotito, in an unadorned and simple brush house in a small village of fishermen. “It was a morning like other mornings and yet perfect among mornings” (3). In the beginning, he is a simple and content man; he does not have riches nor does he need it, for he is already fulfilled with his family’s love and his traditional life. Although they live in poverty, there is harmony and contentment in the simplicity of their lives. When Kino finds the great pearl, as perfect as the moon and as large as the seagull’s egg, hope, “promise and delight, its guarantee…show more content…
The pearl that Kino finds can be seen as an attack on the American dream. Kino wishes to create equal opportunity for his son to be able to attain to the fullest stature of which he is innately capable. “‘This is our one change…Our son must go to school. He must break out of the pot that holds us in’” (38-39). However, in doing so, Kino and his family detach from society and no longer coexist with the other fishermen in his village in harmony. When Kino decides to defy the powers in charge of society and rise above his status quo, his brother tells him, “‘You have defied not the pearl buyers, but the whole structure, the whole way of life’” (54). Steinbeck’s strong belief in proletarian realism is evident here: separating from one’s community leads to only destruction and tragedy, whereas being in harmony with the group and working in unity leads to happiness and satisfaction. The flaws and corruption of the American dream are embodied through the pearl. The pearl has destroyed the peace, harmony and goodness of Kino’s world. The yearning for materialistic wealth and supposed happiness, which the pearl represents, has created a society of greedy and unsatisfied individuals. With the constant desire for more wealth and more success and more prosperity, society becomes selfish, insensitive, and no longer in harmony with the community. Happiness or fulfillment aren’t tied to material objects,…show more content…
While the pearl buyers appear to be individual buyers, they are in fact in collaboration with a single master buyer, who pays them a salary. They changed from bidding against each other and consequently, losing money, to becoming “one pearl buyer with many hands” (42), whose goal is to break down the price as far down as possible. Kino suggests the possibility that “‘All of us have been cheated all of our lives’” (53). The pearl buyers are dishonest businessmen and their whole system is rigged against the common people, some of which are like Kino, who have a vague awareness of this dishonesty, but are powerless to make a difference. “The men who sat in their offices and waited for Kino knew what price they would offer, how high they would bid, and what method each one would use” (42). Their business methods are a portrayal of how powerful corporations keep the working class in subjugation. By taking advantage of the natives’ ignorance, stronger powers grow richer and more powerful, while the lower classes remain struggling in poverty. The pearl buyers; system represents capitalism. The pretense of a free market economy leads the working class to believe they are active participants in the economic order and they are being treated fairly. Steinbeck criticizes capitalism and the free market system, because capitalism leads to monopolies. Capitalism is a system that promises the masses happiness and fulfillment, which
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