Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The Pearl is one of John Steinbeck's outstanding novels because of its simplicity and authenticity. The author combines a few events to develop the essential plot, but he culminates it into a powerful novel filled with emotion, action, and meaning. The author also makes the story seem very real. In order to understand and develop the characters he was creating, Steinbeck studied the daily existence, the culture, the traditions, and the thinking of primitive races, like those pictured in the novel. As a result, the story and its characters are very believable.
In truth, The Pearl is not a novel, but a novella, a type of fiction that is longer than a short story, but not as long as a novel. But in this short book, Steinbeck's narrative power is exemplary. Throughout the novel, there is a thread linking together all of the characters, including their faults, foibles, manners, thoughts, and deeds. In the process of developing his characters, Steinbeck leaves no one half-sketched; all characters, both major and minor, are fully described.
The Pearl can also be viewed as a sociological novel, for it presents man's perennial struggle with society. The poor Indians struggle against their poverty and the higher classes, who constantly and oppressively push the Indians down the ladder towards poverty. The book also presents a conflict between the simple pearl divers and the conniving pearl buyers. The pearl divers, having no clue to the real worth of a pearl, leave it totally in the hands of the pearl-buyers, who unanimously exploit the naiveté of the divers. Similarly, the doctors oppress these simple natives, seeking the wealth for themselves and refusing to help the Indians in or out of their poverty. The priest also authoritatively teaches the natives to be content with what they have and not strive for more.
Finally, the novel can be viewed as a parable, a story whose purpose is to teach a lesson. Through his book, Steinbeck warns about the greed and envy that is bred by wealth, especially with newly acquired treasures. Thus, the structure of The Pearl can be interpreted on different levels, as a novel, as a simple, well-told tale, as a parable, and as a sociological novel. But most of all it must be viewed as a simple and beautiful story about the struggles of Kino over his pearl.