'The Pearl' Quotes Explained

Pearl sitting in a shell on a sandy beach close up.

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The Pearl by John Steinbeck is a novel about an impoverished young diver, Kino, who finds a pearl of extraordinary beauty and value. Hardly believing his luck, Kino believes the pearl will bring his family fortune and fulfill his dreams of a better future. But as the old adage goes, be careful of what you wish for. In the end, the pearl unleashes tragedy on Kino and his family.

Here are quotes from The Pearl that illustrate Kino's rising hope, overreached ambition, and, finally, destructive greed.

The Pearl Quotes Analyzed

And, as with all retold tales that are in people's hearts, there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil things and no in-between. If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it.

Found within the prologue, this quote reveals how The Pearl's plot is not entirely original to Steinbeck. In fact, it is a known story that is often told, perhaps like a folk legend. And as with most parables, there is a moral to this story. 

When Kino had finished, Juana came back to the fire and ate her breakfast. 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.

From Chapter 1, these words paint Kino, the main character, and Juana's lifestyle as unembellished and quiet. This scene depicts Kino as simple and wholesome before he discovers the pearl. 

But the pearls were accidents, and the finding of one was luck, a little pat on the back by God or the gods both.

Kino is diving for pearls in Chapter 2. The act of finding pearls represents the notion that events in life are not actually up to man, but rather chance or a higher power. 

Luck, you see, brings bitter friends.

These ominous words in Chapter 3 spoken by Kino's neighbors foreshadow how the discovery of the pearl can harbor a troublesome future. 

For his dream of the future was real and never to be destroyed, and he had said, 'I will go,' and that made a real thing too. To determine to go and to say it was to be halfway there.

Unlike the deference to the gods and chance in an earlier quote, this quote from Chapter 4 shows how Kino is now taking, or at least trying to take, full control of his future. This raises the question: is it chance or self-agency that determines one's life?

This pearl has become my soul... If I give it up, I shall lose my soul.

Kino utters these words in Chapter 5, revealing how he is consumed by the pearl and the materiality and greed it represents. 

And then Kino's brain cleared from its red concentration and he knew the sound—the keening, moaning, rising hysterical cry from the little cave in the side of the stone mountain, the cry of death.

This quote in Chapter 6 describes the climax of the book and reveals what the pearl has wrought for Kino and his family. 

And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.

Kino finally escapes the siren call of the pearl, but what does it take for him to change? 

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Lombardi, Esther. "'The Pearl' Quotes Explained." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, thoughtco.com/the-pearl-quotes-741031. Lombardi, Esther. (2021, July 29). 'The Pearl' Quotes Explained. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-pearl-quotes-741031 Lombardi, Esther. "'The Pearl' Quotes Explained." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-pearl-quotes-741031 (accessed June 6, 2023).