The Pearl John Steinbeck
Narrator · The anonymous narrator writes as if telling an old story he or she knows very well. The narrator frequently alludes to the story’s ending and freely describes the inner thoughts and feelings of various characters. Rather than tell the story in his own voice, Steinbeck chooses to narrate in a stylized voice recalling that of a storyteller from a society like Kino’s, in which stories are handed down from generation to generation, eventually losing their specificities and becoming moral parables, as Steinbeck insinuates in the opening epigraph, by virtue of sheer repetition.
Point of view · The narrator uses third-person, omniscient narration, meaning he or she not only tells us what various characters think and feel but also provides analysis and commentary on the story. The narrator shifts perspective frequently, focusing most often on Kino but occasionally focusing on other characters such as Juana and the doctor.
Tone · The narrator tells Kino’s story to teach a moral lesson, and so treats Kino above all as a cautionary figure. At the same time, however, the narrator seems to see Kino as a sort of tragic hero, and is moved by the human weakness Kino’s actions reveal. The narrator often shows a certain respect for Kino’s striving to realize his ambitions—even while recognizing the mistakes Kino makes and mourning his ultimate moral downfall.
Tense · Past
Setting (time) · Unclear, possibly late nineteenth or early twentieth century
Setting (place) · A Mexican coastal village called La Paz, probably on the Baja Peninsula
Protagonist · Kino
Major conflict · After finding a magnificent pearl, Kino seeks to sell it to acquire wealth. He wishes for his son’s wound to heal, and for his son to obtain an education and become an equal to the European colonists who keep his people in a state of ignorance and poverty. When he tries to sell the pearl, however, Kino...