The Pearl


John Steinbeck

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Themes and Colors
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Pearl, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


Social structures such as the family, village, and town, are central to The Pearl. The central unit, for Kino and Juana, is the family. Their daily lives and routines are organized around the family, and they make sacrifices for each other and for their son, Coyotito.

Outside the family’s hut is the village, which is small and generally comes together to follow and support Kino and his family when they are in need…

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Good vs. Evil

The plot of The Pearl is driven by a constant struggle between the morally opposite forces of good and evil. Evil in The Pearl can appear in both man (the doctor) and nature (the scorpion); both evil man (the doctor) and good man (Kino); both ugly shape (the scorpion) and beautiful shape (the pearl). While the scorpion’s evil takes the form of lethal poison, man’s evil throughout…

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Race, Tradition, and Oppression

Kino and Juana’s racial heritage both provides them with the grounding force of ritual and tradition and deprives them of power under the reign of European colonizers. They continue to sing the songs they have inherited from their ancestors, but they also continue to be oppressed as their ancestors were, by white people like the doctor and by people with economic influence like the pearl-dealers. Their oppression is brought increasingly to light throughout…

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Value and Wealth

The value and evaluation of material entities is a central theme in The Pearl. The value of the pearl, for example, requires reassessment throughout the novel: at the moment of its discovery, it seems to be worth Coyotito’s life. That the pearl-dealers then so underestimate the price of the pearl reveals how distant the monetary worth of something can be from its perceived value, and how much value is determined by those…

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Nature is a powerful force in The Pearl. Natural elements often serve to instigate crucial plot-points. Sometimes they protect (as in the plants that keep Juana and Kino temporarily hidden from the trackers) and feed (as in the fire that cooks the corncakes); while at other times, they destroy (as in the scorpion that poisons Coyotito and the fire that burns down Kino’s house). And throughout the novel, Kino is described as being, like…

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