Theme of The Pearl

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  • 0:04 Sin Brings Destruction
  • 1:07 Greed
  • 2:05 Destiny
  • 3:03 Racism
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In ''The Pearl'' by John Steinbeck, the theme of the destructive power of greed is explored as the characters navigate their personal desires, destiny, and racism. We will explore the devastating effect of Kino's sudden change from being poor but happy, to possibly instantly wealthy.

Sin Brings Destruction

John Steinbeck's The Pearl is a parable that demonstrates the destructive force of greed. The characters in the story begin as poverty-stricken, but happy. By the end of the story, they've been destroyed by their own greed. It begins when Coyotito, Kino and Juana's son, is stung by a deadly scorpion, but the doctor refuses to treat him because the family is Indian and has no money. Kino dives for pearls to make money to help his son, but by the time he comes upon a large, magnificent pearl, Coyotito's health improves. Kino begins to think how he can better the lives of himself and his family, but the greedy pearl buyers try to cheat him. The greed that creeps into the entire city turns friends into enemies. Over time, Kino loses everything for the sake of the pearl. Had Kino continued to remain grateful for his blessings rather than always pursuing more, the pearl would have lost its power to destroy him. The sub-themes of destiny and racism against the indigent people by the European colonists are also addressed.


Before the pearl, Kino was content with his wife, Juana, and their child. He reflected on how lucky he felt to have such a cheerful and cooperative wife. As long as he had his canoe, he felt like he could provide for his family. The only reason he wanted the pearl was so that he could get medical treatment for his son, but after his son heals, Kino begins thinking about other things he might buy. His friends and neighbors can no longer be trusted as even the priest tries to figure out how to get a share of the profit. When Juana sees that the greed surrounding the pearl is destroying them, she tries to get rid of it. However, Kino catches her. ''Her arm was up to throw when he leaped at her and caught her arm and wrenched the pearl from her. He struck her in the face with his clenched fist and she fell among the boulders, and he kicked her in the side.'' Kino once valued Juana as his most valued asset, but because of his greed, she became the target of his disgust to the point that he beat her.

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