Just like the other classic works of John Steinbeck, The Pearl is a social novel that depicts a discriminatory society ruled by human's greed, shown through the tragic story of a rural family.
The novel is set in a rural town of La Paz, Mexico, during the Spanish colonial period. The main character is the pearl diver Kino, who suddenly becomes the envy of the whole town when he finds the precious "pearl of the world". For a poor man like Kino, the pearl was key to all the dreams he did not dare to want before: a church wedding with his wife, Juana, and an education for his son, Coyotito. Intoxicated with all those dreams, Kino hid the pearl and guarded it with his life against all those who tried to steal it.
One day, Kino tried to sell the pearl with some local dealers; he received an offer of one thousand pesos. But Kino immediately sensed the local dealer's manipulation; he was convinced that the pearl cost at least fifty thousand pesos. Kino turned indignant, by the end of the day, he and Juana decide to leave in hopes of getting a better deal in another town. However, their departure did not go as smoothly as planned, for no one welcomed change, and many in town wanted the big round pearl.
In The Pearl, John Steinbeck vividly captured the rhythm and simplicity of rural life. The novel is filled with rich descriptions of the environment and activities of both people and animals, things that characterizes the life in the province. Steinbeck even went to the point of giving La Paz, the town itself, a psyche of its own:
"A town is a thing separate from all other towns, so that there are no two towns alike. And a town has a whole emotion. How news travels through a town is a mystery not easily to be solved. News seems to move faster than small boys can scramble and dart to tell it, faster than women can call it over the fences."
More appalling however was John Steinbeck's use of casual tone in revealing the abuses in society. With this, he effectively implied that injustice was unfortunately common. He also used third person point of view that gives the readers an understanding of Kino's thoughts as well as the tensed atmosphere in La Paz. Another appealing style in the novel was the use of metaphor to represent humans' goodness and evilness with Native Indians' songs. There were three songs that Kino consistently heard throughout the novel: Song of the Family, Song of Evil and Song of the Pearl. Through those styles, John Steinbeck beautifully explained human's greatest weakness.
"For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with that they have."