Gonzaga, Joni Mae D.

Eng2- F5


Depicting the Good and the Evil, a Treasure Chest of Values: John Steinbeck’s Novel, The Pearl, as a Parable Perhaps one of the shortest novels ever written yet a true classic, John Steinbeck’s The Pearl can be considered a parable, a story of values and teachings of God. The story of the pearl embarks on the family of a fisherman living in a shabby little house in La Paz Mexico, a very unfortunate event made him dive into the ocean where he found the great pearl, a pearl as big as a sea gull’s egg. This discovery turned his family’s life around as he kept on protecting the pearl against trackers that wanted to get it from him. A parable is a brief story, proverb or saying which expresses moral. They conceal complex ideas through simple situations in the story.1 Parables tell us two stories at the same time, a surface story and a symbolic story that is coherent with the literal story. It embodies a conflict of values which turns out to give emphasis to the significant values implied by the story as it coexists with other values.


associated with the illustration of man’s relation with God, a parable uses allegory to imply an abstract subject.

Conflict of values suggests that many life lessons are intertwined in the story. Different perspectives of which, arise throughout the plot. If a novel is a parable, it should exhibit a series of conflict of values as
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The world book encyclopedia. 1984. USA, World Book Inc. Berkley, J. 1967. Patterns of literature: The novel and non-fiction. USA, L.W. Singer Company Inc. 3 Tan, A. 1998. Introduction to literature. Mandaluyong, Philippines: Academic Publishing Corporation.

the main story progresses.4 Steinbeck’s novel showed the mystery behind of the main character, Kino, holding on to his dreams despite of all the risks adjoined into it. It is an issue whether Kino shall continue to be a dreamer and pursue a better future or a father and a man of his family who would be very willing to give up everything for the security of his wife and son. It is only human nature of a man not to let go of his dreams especially in Kino’s situation where he seemed to find the key to bring those dreams to life and all he is left to do is to defend it from others who want to have it as well.5 In a dilemma between pursuing a dream and keeping his family, being carried away by his hopes and dreams, the main character has failed to keep the most valuable treasure in his life, his family. The Pearl revolved around the subject of struggle in dealing between good and evil, which also turns out to be the most evident subject amongst parables. This subject was exposed, through showing how it exists in man, in different scenes all throughout the novel. A loving, affectionate, and delightful husband eventually managed to lift a hand to his wife when she tried to get in his way of keeping the great pearl. A shift from a selfless man that only thinks of his family to a man full of greed was seen in the story. Even though he had good plans for what he might get after selling the pearl such as marrying his
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Denning, S. 2004. A fable of leadership and storytelling. USA: Squirrel Inc. Myers, D. Social psychology. USA: McGraw-Hill Inc.

wife in a church and uplifting his race by sending his son to school, to incorporate buying rifle as he thinks of defending his treasure that someone would attempt to get his possible treasure is a clear depiction of how evil takes over the goodness of man. Another characteristic of the novel for it to be considered a parable is the use of allegorical symbolisms. With this it is said that the story depicts a moral and spiritual lesson. In the ornate language of the parable, the author requires the reader to look beyond the literal story in order to find the true meaning of the novel. 6 From the very first sentence of the novel, the author used many animals to convey some messages all throughout the story. The most prominent animal used is the scorpion which attacked the child of the main character. Using the scorpion as an adversary imparts the thought of having stealthy dangers for the family. The attack of the scorpion was sudden, unexpected, and shrouded a foreshadowing of the problems that may arise within the family. Also, a part in the story mentioned how a pearl was formed when sand irritates the flesh of the oyster. It can be perceived that the author intended to present the pearl in such a way that everyone could see a great treasure coming from dirt and distress.


Forman, C. 1985. Barron’s book notes: John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. New York: Barron’s Educational Series Inc.

The novel was found out to be based on the biblical parable of the Pearl of the Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46)7 “Again the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in the fields which a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who when he had found one pearl of the great price went and sold all he had and bought it” This verse connotes that a man would do anything to give up everything he has just to have the chance of having the true joy that he had long been waiting. In the novel, the author set the story in such a way that he was able to show how a man who lived in poverty would deal a sudden change in his fortune and dreams for success. The novel was able to meet the characteristics of a parable given to consider a novel a parable such as the presence of conflict of values, the main theme of good versus evil and allegorical

symbolisms. In addition, the novel was found out to be based on the biblical parable of the pearl of the great price. With this it can be said that this classic novel by John Steinbeck is actually a parable, conveying a deep and meaningful message about life. Very short it may be but this novel never failed to showcase a good and sensible story. Most importantly it teaches values in a very simple way by which every man in all walks of life can relate.


Forman, C. 1985. Barron’s book notes: John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. New York: Barron’s Educational Series Inc.