The Pearl

by: John Steinbeck

Greed

1

All manner of people grew interested in Kino—people with things to sell and people with favors to ask. Kino had found the Pearl of the World.

The narrator explains that, almost as soon as Kino finds the pearl, word of his discovery spreads, and everyone immediately thinks of how Kino’s good fortune can also benefit themselves. The shopkeepers think about what they can sell him, and the pearl dealers wonder how little they can get away with paying him. The pearl has unleashed basic greed in the fishing town. While Juana had initially prayed to find a pearl simply to have the money to pay the doctor, the pearl quickly comes to symbolize the possibility of personal gain for everyone in the town.

2

It was the rifle that broke down the barriers . . . For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more.

In imagining what he can buy with the money he will get from selling the pearl, the narrator revels that Kino dares to dream of a rifle, normally an impossible acquisition for him. The fact that such an expensive item could now be in his reach unleashes greed within Kino. While his initial desires all centered around bettering his family, a rifle—which symbolizes both power and violence—serves only to enrich Kino. Once he envisions this rifle, he can’t let go of his new, as-yet-unrealized future and will pursue it with deadly costs.

3

“No one shall take our good fortune from us,” he said.

After Kino is attacked and Juana begs him to get rid of the pearl, he responds with this declaration. Certainly, Kino’s desire to preserve and sell the pearl has validity: He found the pearl and he deserves all the good the pearl’s fair sale can bring him and his family. However, his refusal to acknowledge the evil the pearl brings to his family and their neighbors arises out of his own desire for more than what he already has. His insistence on achieving the future the pearl makes possible shows that the pearl’s value has already perverted him.