John Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas (California) and was of Westfalian descent on his father's side and of Irish on his mother's side. He studied at Stanford University for some years (1919-1925). Steinbeck took particular interest in biology and studies that taught him how to make exact observations, but he never passed any final exams. He took any kind of work, for example in the country, where he got to know the working-conditions of the farmers, or in New York, where he was a dish-washer, bricklayer, porter and finally a newspaper reporter. Steinbeck was not that well known, until he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 with the novel "The Grapes of Wrath". He died in 1968.
Other novels *Cup of Gold (1929) *In Dubious Battle (1936)
*To a God Unknown (1933) *Of Mice and Men (1937)
*Tortilla Flat (1935) *East of Eden (1952)
Main characters Kino: a simple fisherman Juan Tomás: Kino's brother
Juana: Kino's wife Apolonia: Juan Tomás' wife
Kino is a simple fisherman and he lives with his wife Juana and his baby-son Coyotito in a little brush house by the sea. His brother Juan Tomás has his hut near him. He is as happy as he could be in his poor living-condition: Kino is married and he has a child. In every situation Kino hears a kind of music, for example the Song of Evil when he feels danger. One morning this sign of danger is there and it proves right because a short time later a scor-pion stings the baby. Naturally they take the baby to the doctor but he doesn't want to help him because the family is poor and they cannot pay, they only have a few valueless pearls. That is unbelievable for Kino and he recognises for the first time that the value of a man depends on his income. As the doctor refuses help they have to treat him themselves, but the baby's illness is already better and so Kino wants to go pearl-fishing. He is standing in the water when a light hits him. It comes from something, a little opened oyster. The man dives for the shell and finds a sparkling pearl, which is as big as he has never seen before. It is as large as a seagull's egg. Soon the whole town knows that Kino has found the Pearl of the World. So he becomes the enemy of every man. Only Juan Tomás and Apolonia share Kino's and Juana's joy. They think about what they will do with the money they are going to get for it: they want to get married in the church, to buy new clothes and Coyotito to go to school, when he is older. The priest has heard of the pearl and comes to persuade them to get married. Later the doctor visits them to look after the baby. He also knows of it. It is night and Kino wakes up because he hears the Song of Evil and the touch of a foot on earth. So he takes his knife and attacks the person. Quickly the thief runs away. They recognise for the first time that the pearl is dangerous. On the next day they try to sell it but the dealers want to tell him, that the pearl is fool's gold, because it is too large. So Kino wants to go to the capital to get money for the pearl. He is thinking about today's events in the open air when he is attacked there. He kills the man, because he has to save his own life. Kino and his family must flee, but the canoe is broken. So they are hiding in his brother's flat until the morning comes. They are going North, because there are big cities. Two trackers and a man are following them. Kino is hiding in a cave with his wife and his child. Two of the followers are sleeping and he knows he must kill them as soon as possible. He creeps to the enemies. He wants to attack them, but suddenly there is a noise. Kino knows, that it is the baby, but the trackers think it is a coyote and shoot in direction of the cave. The sound has stopped and the man knows that the baby is dead. Now Kino turns into a terrible machine, forgetting any human feelings. In his rage he kills the three men as brutally as he can do. After that Kino and Juana go back to their village. They throw the pearl into the sea.
The book describes what can become of simple, normal people when they are suddenly confronted with great wealth. Money brings up the animal character in every man who would kill for a part of the prey. It also shows the unlimited power of money, which can buy health, a priest's blessing or the support you want. You get what you want if you have enough pounds or dollars. On the other hand it presents the danger of wealth because it brings out the envy of all those who have less or nothing. By throwing the great pearl back into the sea and so renouncing money Kino wants to restore his former situation. But it will never be the same again, because his child is dead, he has become a murderer and facing capital punishment.
Steinbeck uses older words and creates new ones sometimes. The book is written in easy language. The main characters are speaking with a simple vocabulary.