Role of Greed in the Story
First, Coyotito, Kino’s son, is stung by a scorpion. Secondly, Kino and his wife, Juana, try to see a doctor, but they are turned down because they do not have sufficient funds. To save his son, Kino finds a pearl and tries to sell it. However, he is not successful in selling the pearl and is attacked. Kino does not respond to the first attack so lightly, so in a second attack from a man, Kino does not hesitate to kill the man. At the same time, Juana attempts to get rid of the pearl, but Kino came in and attacked her. In response to killing the man, Kino decides that it is best to leave the village with his family. At the same time, Kino and his family are tracked down. Kino tries to fight off the trackers, but Coyotito is shot in the head in response to a cry he let out. Finally, Kino and Juana decided to return to their village where Kino throws the pearl back to where he found it. In The Pearl, John Steinbeck communicates that greed can change a person’s innocence without the person realizing it.
At the beginning of the novella, Kino was described to be satisfied with his life even though he did not have much. For instance, “Kino squatted by the fire pit and rolled a hot corn-cake and dipped it in sauce and ate it. And he drank a little pulque and that was breakfast. That was the only breakfast he had ever known outside of feast days and one incredible fiesta on cookies that had nearly killed him” (Steinbeck 2). According to this quote, Kino lives a simple and poor lifestyle. Before this quote, Steinbeck stated that Kino’s family and their village lived in “brush houses,” so that means they have little to almost no money (2). He eats the same breakfast and on special occasions he has a different breakfast. Even though he had to eat and drink the same thing every morning, he did not complain about it. After Kino finds the pearl, Coyotito’s life seems to have been saved. So, Kino began to think about materialistic things like clothes and fishing tools that he could get now that he has a pearl. Kino also talked about having a wedding. One other thing Kino said that he wanted was a rifle, and after this becomes known, Steinbeck says, “For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more” (12). In this quote, Steinbeck directly states that greed can cause a person to want things they had not even thought about in the first place. Before Kino even had a pearl, he did not want a wedding or new clothes. Kino was completely okay with the way his life was going and what he had. Now that Kino has one valuable possession, he wants more.
In this novella, having money means that you have power, but Kino did not care about that because that was not what he originally valued most. European society was depicted as greedy because of their values and actions. For example, the doctor only tends to those who have money when a doctor should provide care for every one (1). Once the news of Kino finding the pearl got to the doctor, the doctor claimed Kino as his client (11). When Kino mentions that he wants a rifle, a comparison can be made to the canoe that, “which was the one thing of value he owned in the world” (8). The canoe is important to Kino because it can be used as “a source of food” (8). Like the canoe, a rifle can be used in the same way. Kino wants to upgrade from a canoe to a rifle. However, a rifle can be used for other things such as killing. Suddenly, Kino wants the things that are valued by the people he claims to have hate towards because of his people’s mistreatment. Therefore, Kino believes that wealth can only be found in European society rather than his own.
Kino is no longer who he claims to be because of his greed taking over. In response to the offer the pearl buyer gave, Kino responds by saying that the pearl was worth more (25). When the pearl buyer offered “a thousand pesos” Kino could have accepted the offer (25). However, he did not and made a big deal out of it. Even though the amount may not have been much, Kino could have used it for the things he claimed to care about before the pearl came into the picture. Not only that, Kino understood that the pearl buyers offered the lowest price possible for pearls. Therefore, there was no point in trying to argue. Kino’s overreaction suggests that if he wants more money, he made himself look bad and caused a scene in front of everyone. Kino was known for being calm and collected, yet he acted the way he did. When Kino was in pursuit of Juana, “Kino moved sluggishly, arms and legs stirred like those of a crushed bug, and a thick muttering came from his mouth. Now, in an instant, Juana knew that the old life was gone forever. A dead man in the path and Kino’s knife, dark-bladed beside him, convinced her” (32).
As Kino’s greed grew, his relationship with Juana began to change. Kino and Juana seemed to be in tune with one another when Steinbeck says, “They had spoken once, but there is not need for speech if it is only a habit anyway. Kino sighed with satisfaction – and that was conversation” (1-2). When Steinbeck says this, we can infer that Kino and Juana have such a strong relationship that they do not even need to talk. Both Kino and Juana can understand each other’s emotions and feelings without even saying a single word. The strain on their relationship is seen when Juana grabs the pearl when Kino is not looking to get rid of it, “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” (31). Juana claimed that the pearl was evil, but it was Kino’s greed that was the true evil. Kino and Juana’s relationship was tested with the presence of the pearl. If Kino truly loved Juana, he would not have laid a finger on her especially when he hits her again once she is down. At the beginning of the novella, Kino valued his family above everything else, yet he brought danger to Juana and Coyotito because he was unable to control himself.
Moral of the Story
Greed is defined as, “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed” (“Greed”). Steinbeck’s novella, The Pearl, goes into depth about what greed can do to an individual and what the lasting effects are. Kino lost himself and Coyotito because he got greedy and wanted more rather than acknowledging what he already had. Greed is present in everyone whether it be influential or not as influential in our lives, but if it is highly influential, bad things can happen. When we allow greed to take complete control, we can lose ourselves, things we value most, and loved ones in the process. We as humans should focus on self-control so that we can prevent greed from possibly ruining our lives especially since it can happen without us even realizing it.