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The Good and the Bad
In today's world many people are looking for a fast way to make a better life for them and their families. Whether by spending money (they really don't have) trying to win the lottery, hitting it big at a casino, or making a big profit at the expense of other people. Most of the time, this ends in them losing everything they have trying to “hit it big” and in some cases causes them to lose their life. The ones that don't lose their life wish they were dead. The fight between good and bad is the theme of John Steinbeck's The Pearl (1947).
John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California (Horn). There were four children of which he was the only boy. His father was the Monterey County Treasurer and his mother, Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck was a former school teacher. Both parents shared their sons' passion for reading and writing (New World Encyclopedia). He grew working on farms in his home town and at the age of seventeen he graduated from Salinas High School. After high school, he attended Stanford University until 1925, never obtaining a degree.
Steinbeck was married three times and fathered two children, one of which died in 1991 (Wikipedia). His first marriage was to Carol Henning, which ended in a divorce in 1941. In 1943, Steinbeck filed for a divorce from Carol and married Gwyndolyn Conger. In 1948, Steinbeck divorced for the second time and in 1950 married Elaine Scott. They would remain married until his death in 1968 of a heart attack. His wishes were to be cremated and the remains placed at the family gravesite in Salinas. His wife, Elaine was buried with him in 2004.
The same year of Steinbeck's first divorce, he met Ed Ricketts who remain his closest friend until Ricketts unfortunate death in 1948 (French). Ricketts would ask Steinbeck to go with him to explore the Gulf of California in an effort to understand the links between all living things. Steinbeck and Ricketts would publish a book in 1941 called The Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (Horn). The book did not sell well, however in 1951; the narrative part was republished as The Log from the Sea of Cortez, under his name even though some of it was written by Ricketts. Some of Steinbeck's characters were made from his friend Ed Ricketts. The books include Cannery Row (1945) and Sweet Thursday (1954). “As Richard Astro stated in John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts (1973), Steinbeck's narrative stands as a “celebration” of the “holistic world view” he shared with Ricketts.”(Horn) In 1979, Steinbeck was commemorated by the United States Postal Service when they issued a stamp featuring him, kicking off the Postal Service's Literary Arts honoring the American writers (Wikipedia).
Steinbeck will always be known for his novels The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Mice and Men (1937). But, his novel Tortilla Flats (1935) was the one that really started his career as a writer. It was bought by a publisher from New York in 1935. The book was a great success for him and won the Gold Metal from the Commonwealth Club. He sold the movie rights for about $4,000. Sadly, his father passed away just before the publication of the book. Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. In 1945, Steinbeck received the Haakon VII Medal of freedom for his literary contributions to the Norwegian movement (New World Encyclopedia). Many of his works are on the required reading list in high schools across the nation. In the United Kingdom, Of Mice and Men is a key novel used for its English Literature GCSE (Wikipedia). Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was found to be on the top ten reading list in high schools by The Center for the Learning Teaching of Literature in the United States. He was also found to be one of the top ten banned authors from 1990 to 2004.
In the early 1940's, Steinbeck was out making a movie when he wrote a letter to then President Roosevelt talking about the international situation, that a crisis was imminent in the Western Hemisphere and it has to be met with an “immediate, controlled, considered, and directed method and policy” (Steinbeck). Then, goes on to say that he knows the President knows this is important and he has already considered the situation. Steinbeck was an “unofficial” adviser to President Roosevelt and a good friend to President Lyndon Johnson. Steinbeck was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson in 1964 (Horn). John S. Kennedy was friend of Steinbeck in the earlier years and summed up his literary philosophy as a “reverence for life” (Napierkowski).
While serving as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, Steinbeck saw action with some of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. “Beach Jumpers” program. They had launched a small-unit diversion against the German held islands of the Mediterranean. If he would have been caught he would have been killed since he was a war correspondent. Steinbeck continued to work on films during the war. One was for Alfred Hitchcock called Lifeboat (1944), which later he later requested his name be taken off the credits. He thought it had racial undertones. The other movie was A Medal for Benny (1945). After World War II, his novel The Pearl (1947) was published. He knew it was going to be a movie before it was ever completed. While traveling to Mexico for the shooting of the movie, he was inspired to write a script called (Viva Zapata!), the film was a success.
In the beginning, it was just another book that I thought would not be that good of a story. But the more I read the more I understood what the story was really about. In his preface of The Pearl, Steinbeck says: “If the story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it”. That got me thinking the deeper I got into the book. This book not only tells of a good man trying to make life better for his family, but that of what could happen to a person when they think they have found what would or could change their life. The pearl could have been the one thing that made his family's life a lot better, but it ended up costing his family more than money or riches could ever replace.
The way the story just keeps going made it hard to put the book down. I could not wait to see what was going to happen next. From the child getting stung by the scorpion, to the dad finding the pearl, and the things the family went through to try to have the life they were dreaming for. The story turned bad when the son was killed, when the dad was trying to get the gun away from the men looking for him. Once I was finished reading the novel all I could think of is this was a very good book to have read and I need to find another one of Steinbeck's books to read.
In the Critical Essay on The Pearl written by Wendy Perkins, which can be found in the Literature Resources from Gale. She wrote this in 2006 and has also written on authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Laura Esquivel, and James Baldwin. Her work has been used in Short Stories for Students.
Wendy Perkins uses other novels that John Steinbeck has written to show his style of writing. For example, she has taken The Grapes of Wrath to tell how Steinbeck “returns to these themes” to tell the story of The Pearl. Also, in a review of The Pearl written by Richard Astro it is noted his “organismal view of life, his belief that men can work together to fashion a better, more productive, and more meaningful life.”
Wendy Perkins uses other reviews that were written years earlier, that tells she has done her research. There were three different reviews looked at to help others understand her essay. The story was summarized well in her analysis by using the good and bad characters of the story. She shows the different living styles of people in the story. For example, Kino and his family to the wealthy doctor who does not want to help anyone who cannot pay for his treatment. Kino's wife Juana does not want to lose her first born so she pretty much tells him they are going to the doctors' house to try to save Coyotito's life after the sting from the scorpion.
After they were not helped by the doctor, they return home and go back to looking for more pearls, still trying to save his sons life. After Kino finds the mother pearl, he thinks not only can his son see a doctor he will be able to get an education. Kino didn't know that his new found treasure would end up doing more damage than good.
With the way Wendy Perkins utilized the different stories of Steinbeck's and the different reviews made this short but effective essay something interesting for me to read. After reading the book and her paper I think she has done a good job of getting the main points of the story out. This was an effective and very well constructed essay. I would highly recommend everyone to read this essay. It gave a good insight on some of Steinbeck's work.
In John Steinbeck: Overview written by Warren French in 1994, he discusses the writing style and subject matter of Steinbeck's books. This critical essay can be found in the Literature Resource Center. His first book was John Steinbeck and of the series. He has edited all the books in the Twayne Filmmakers Series, as well as more than fifty other books on American writers. Warren French has taught at universities in Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, and Missouri. His last position was chairman of the English department and director of the Center For American Studies at Indiana University and Perdue University. He retired in 1986 and plans to write and promote American studies. His books and papers will be archived at Ohio University, where he received a Doctor of Humane degree (French).
Many critics think that he is the “most outspoken” critic of John Steinbeck and of his novel The Pearl. French stated that “Kino's struggles would be more meaningful to the readers of the Women's Home Companion, where the story was first published (Napierkowski). He believes that Steinbeck's work is based on observations rather than personal crisis. French stated that Sweet Thursday (1954) is probably Steinbeck's “least respected novel.” He says it's “an ill-advised attempt to resurrect the characters and setting of Cannery Row.”(French)
In his critical essay, French believes that after World War II, Steinbeck had a decline in his artistic powers and that his diversity is a relation of man and his environment. Steinbeck may have lost part of himself during the war. Most don't understand what being in a war does to a person. In the book Cup of Gold, French says that it is “apprentice work” and that it exudes the same as literature from the 1920's (French). He goes on to tell that in To a God Unknown (1933), it “employs the same kind of baroque language and bizarre episodes” as Cup of Gold. The way Warren French writes about Steinbeck's work would make some think he [French] does not like Steinbeck's style of writing. This just goes to show that everyone has their own opinion about different authors and their books. This is not saying anyone is right or wrong, in what they understand about an author and his or her style of writing.
The baby getting stung by the scorpion was the beginning of the family's nightmare. The pearl was to change their lives forever, but not the way Kino had thought in his mind. The events that happened after the discovery of the pearl could be seen in that no one was going to take it away from him. His wife, Juana seen what evil the pearl was doing and tried to put it back where it had come from. The pearl had a hold on Kino and there was no way he was going to let it go. In the end the pearl cost him more than it was worth, his son's life.
The Pearl will always be a book that is criticized, but the true critic of it would be the reader and what they take from it. This novel made me think of how good things are for my family and struggles we go through, in that somewhere in the world someone has this worse than we have do. There are always going to be good and bad things happen to us. We have to deal with them the best we can. The good and the bad is what we pay for the discussions we make in our lives.