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Common Problems In The 1940s In The Pearl By John Steinbeck

2271 words - 10 pages

American literature plays a vital role in society, providing entertainment while displaying themes that related to common problems during the 1940s. One of the novels that reflects some of these major problems is The Pearl, written by John Steinbeck. This novel is based on a story that Steinbeck heard on his trip to La Paz, Mexico in 1940. He describes this story in his book, The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Steinbeck tries to show the difficulties that many people faced in Mexico. In particular, The Pearl examines the social and cultural inequalities between the Mexicans and the Europeans, illustrates how longing for materialistic goods can result in destruction, and demonstrates how a man’s ...view middle of the document...

For example, Kino has to make his own basket and tools in order to collect the oysters (Johnson 184), but inherits his canoe from his grandfather (Steinbeck 19).
The European population of La Paz, on the other hand, lives a lavish life, and don’t care for the conditions of others (Johnson 182). The white people have lots of money, and are able to afford luxuries like mansions, as seen with the doctor. The doctor lives in a house made of stone and plaster, which was quite expensive at that time, and it is encased by walls and a gate. This is the very gate that Kino strikes and splits his knuckles on when the doctor refuses to treat Coyotito from the scorpion sting (Steinbeck 16). Within the wall’s boundaries lay exotic plants and a fountain, intricate in design (Johnson 182: “Kino could see the green coolness of the garden and little splashing fountain through the opening” (Steinbeck 13). Even more aesthetically pleasing is the doctor’s bedchamber, decorated with furniture and paintings (Steinbeck 13). The doctor’s silk gowns from Paris show that he is of high class and power because he is rich (Steinbeck 13). In terms of eating habits, he eats biscuits and drinks chocolate, and eats from fine china and uses silverware, all of which would have been unobtainable for the Mexicans (Johnson 182). These European colonists experienced the lavish life, and never bothered to share any of their wealth for benefitting the community as a whole.
As seen throughout the novel, the Mexicans and the Europeans have very different cultures, but the Mexican society is treated much worse than the Europeans. These Indians, who represent the native cultures, are oppressed by these colonists who inhabited La Paz (Johnson 184). They had known for a long time that they had been robbed of their basic necessities (Levant 191). The European colonists are motivated by greed, and would stop at nothing to achieve a greater amount of power and wealth (Johnson 184). This leads them to destroy Kino’s canoe, which is his only method of earning an income for his family (Cox 110). In addition, they burn his house down, assault him twice to steal his pearl, and hunts his family like animals into the mountains (Lisca 221). Unlike the other Mexicans, Kino is keen enough to realize that he had been deceived by the pearl buyers, and had been cheated all of his life (Johnson 185): “’I am cheated,’ Kino cried fiercely. ‘My pearl is not for sale here.’” (Steinbeck 67). However, the Mexicans have been starved, beaten, and robbed for almost four hundred years by the colonists and the other settlers that passed through Mexico, so it was not new to society (Johnson 182). Their job of diving for pearls or acting as servants for the Europeans made the colonial society rich while their own native society became poorer due to the low income levels that divers received for their pearls (Johnson 184).
Contrary to these native people, the Europeans, who represented colonial society, believe that...

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