I don’t much care for yard work. I love working in a garden, but raking leaves have never really been my cup of tea. During these long hauls of leaf raking, I have a tendency to listen to books on tape. They have a way of entertaining me while I am otherwise bored to tears. On this particular day, I chose John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. I probably hadn’t read John Steinbeck’s The Pearl since midway through high school, so listening to it was almost the same as reading it for the first time.
The reason I feel this books need mentioning is because it’s a short and simple book. My copy comes in at 90 pages long. As far as it being simple, in the world of literature, trust me, it is. The story is a parable. (This means that it’s meant to teach a lesson; the word parable itself comes from the Greek word “to compare”.) I happen to love these stories. They come across as quaint little fairytales and hold meanings that are not so hard to grasp.
The Pearl centers around this small village family. The husband, Kino, is a pearl diver and makes very little money. His wife, Juana, rolls their own their own corncakes in their little thatch hut and takes their baby along with them in the canoe as Kino dives for these pearls. This all seem quite simple… until they find the mother of all pearls.
So, Kino finds this amazing pearl just in the nick of time (I won’t spoil why). And the following tale brings to light many aspects of life that most people would rather ignore. For example, it highlights how greed affects different members of society, from the lowly pearl diver to the rich doctor. I think that this tale is a little too dark because of the outcome, but I think that a lot of 12+ could benefit from it. It makes for a very easy book to discuss and it has an overabundance of themes, motifs, and symbols to choose from.
As I was earning my blisters from raking leaves, I got carried away in this book. I did not say lost, I meant carried away. Steinbeck has a very melodic voice in this book, and he doesn’t get hung up on long descriptions of turtles and their difficulties crossing roads (bravo if you know which book I’m referencing). Since this a very thematic book, it’s important that the reader not feel encumbered the lessons of the story. Much like with Snow White, the lesson is there (don’t take things from strangers) but is not the reason you are reading the book.