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The Pearl by John Steinbeck

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This novella by American writer John Steinbeck (1902-1968) is actually a retelling of a Mexican folk tale, the story of a poor fisherman and his wife and baby. When the fisherman, Kino, finds an extraordinary pearl he hopes it will bring comfort and health to his family, but soon discovers "that the rare gem is instead a conveyor of greed, envy and ultimately death" [from the dust jacket of the 1986 Viking edition]. An antlion appears early in the story—as a reminder of nature's struggle of life and death, and perhaps to presage Kino's own struggle:

The dawn came quickly now, a wash, a glow, a lightness, and then an explosion of fire as the sun arose out of the Gulf. Kino looked down to cover his eyes from the glare. He could hear the pat of the corncakes in the house and the rich smell of them on the cooking plate. The ants were busy on the ground, big black ones with shiny bodies, and little dusty quick ants. Kino watched with the detachment of God while a dusty ant frantically tried to escape the sand trap an ant lion had dug for him. A thin, timid dog came close and, at a soft word from Kino, curled up, arranged its tail neatly over its feet, and laid its chin delicately on the pile. It was a black dog with yellow-gold spots where its eyebrows should have been. It was a morning like other morning and yet perfect among mornings (Steinbeck 1986 [1945], 3).


Steinbeck, John. 1986 [1945]. The Pearl. New York: Viking Penguin Inc.

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