Friday, December 26, 2003

The Pearl - by John Steinbeck

Amazing writing. Depressing topic. I couldn't put it down.

In his book The Pearl, John Steinbeck explores the nature of good and evil, economic classes, class (im-)mobility, greed, luck, destiny, happiness, and profound loss.

This is the third time I have read The Pearl. I think the first time was in the 7th grade (as if being a teenager wasn't depressing enough). It is one of the first books to have made any kind of deep impression on my mind. I think it may be the first book that made me stop and think about class struggles and greed and the desert and the mixed blessing of comparative wealth. I guess I might say that it was the first book to make me think about much of anything at all.

This time, as I read through The Pearl, I was just stunned at what an amazing writer Steinbeck is. His foreshadowing, his recurring themes, his musical metaphors for archetypical realities (excuse me) really blew me away. I really had to just keep on reading until the book was done.

The book left me with a sour ache in my stomach (or maybe that was lunch...). But I think that's what the author wanted. I think he wanted us to come away disgusted and upset, so that we would actually think about what we read.

In a way, it almost seemed like Steinbeck wanted us to see how the world is structured to prohibit upward class mobility. I think he wanted us to feel disgusted about it so that we could think about how we are doing the same things in our society. In the book, you get the feeling that Kino is a caged animal. And that no matter how hard he tries, no matter what good fortune comes to him, he has no choice but to stay in the cage.

This book really highlights the role greed plays in the everyday evil we see in the world around us. I know that all pain is not inflicted by societal norms. And I don't think anyone is naive enough to claim that. But I do come away from The Pearl just disgusted about how much evil goes on in the world around us on a day-to-day basis.

It looks like I'm on a pain and suffering, ultimate reality, good vs. evil reading spree. The next one I have on my shelf is The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. We'll see how Lewis weighs in on this matter.

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