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It becomes a crystal ball in which one can see one”s dreams and nightmares; Kino “looked into its surface and it was grey and ulcerous.Evil faces peered from it into his eyes, and he saw the light of burning…….As we have seen, Steinbeck”s novella has many features we would expect of a parable, but does that mean we can say it is one completely?
In Kino and Juana, Steinbeck has given us much more realistic people.
In his introduction to “The Pearl”, Steinbeck himself casts doubt on his book being a parable, saying “If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it, and reads his own life into it”.
Although the style is simple, there is a great deal more description than we would expect from a parable, some of it very poetic in style, eg “High in the grey stone mountains, under a frowning peak, a little spring bubbled out of a rupture in the stone.
It was fed by shade-preserved snow in the summer, and now and then it died completely and bare rocks and dried algae were on its bottom”.
It could represent man”s search for his soul, finding good and evil on the way, making a sacrifice, and finally coming to a greater understanding.
Kino at the start of the book is isolated and protected.In many ways, “The Pearl” conforms to what we would expect of a parable.The story is short, although not as short as the parables in the Bible;the style is simple, with little complex vocabulary or sentence structure; the main setting is the homely,if poor, Mexican fishing village and many of the characters are nameless, eg the doctor, the priest, the pearl buyers, the trackers.In his book, “Sea of Cortez” 1941, he explains that he took the idea for his book from an old Californian/Mexican folk tale about an Indian boy who found a pearl.He liked the story, but said, it did not sound believable because it was “so much like a parable, or a short story with a hidden moral lesson” and the character of the young boy went “contrary to human direction”, that is, he was not realistic enough.Kino can be seen as representing man and all men, giving his story universal significance.His wife, Juana, has a name which means “woman”, again suggesting that she is meant to represent all women.Even the main characters are not described in much physical detail.All we know of Kino”s appearance is, he was “young and strong and his black hair hung over his brown forehead.The idea of this book being a religious parable also seems to be borne out by the journey through the desert to sell the pearl, which is like a pilgrimage, testing the character of the pilgrim, and seems to echo the Exodus of the Israelites seeking their promised land in the Bible.Was this story supposed to be a version of the parable of the pearl in the Bible, where a merchant sacrifices everything he holds dear for a pearl of great value, and his place in the Kingdom of Heaven?