Greed, Murder And Poverty In The Pearl By John Steinbeck

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In John Steinbeck’s realistic fiction novel, The Pearl, Kino drastically changes his life when he finds a pearl of great value. Local authors, Jack London and John Steinbeck, both use greed, murder, and poverty in different ways to express their themes.

Greed is a theme addressed by both authors. In The Pearl, once Kino found the pearl, he started to talk about all these things that he would never do. “My son will go to school.” Before he had found the pearl, Juana always made the decisions. One example is of this is when Coyotito got stung by a scorpion and Juana had told Kino to go get the doctor, but when Kino found the pearl, he started acting like he had all the power in the world. He ignored Juana multiple times, like when she told him to throw the pearl into the ocean and stop all this evil that had come into their family, he ignored her and they ended up losing their home. In Jack London’s short story, “Just Meat”, both Matt and Jim kill each other trying to take the diamonds. Matt thought that Jim was trying to rat him out, so he used strychnine, a rat poison, to kill both Matt and himself. Although both authors have different examples of greed in their stories, they both give perfect examples of greed. One shows us how greed can take over our lives, while the other shows that greed can cause you to take someone’s life, and in Matt’s case, your own.

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Murder is another theme established by both authors. In both stories, The Pearl and “Just Meat”, John Steinbeck and Jack London both show murder in their own ways. In The Pearl, “Kino gripped the handle of the big knife and took a sense of protection from it.” After reading this, the reader learns that Kino would kill someone if they attacked him. Later on in The Pearl, a man tries to steal Kino’s pearl and Kino ends up stabbing him in the back, later learning he had killed him. Towards the end of the story, Kino ends up killing the men trying to steal the pearl from him. In “Just Meat,” Jim was trying to be greedy and take all the diamonds for himself.’ Oh, I fixed you all right, Matt said, with teeth close together and shivering body. What did you give me? (Jim said) Strychnine. (Matt said)” So, Matt decided to kill him by putting strychnine in the steak. Even though both authors have contrasting ways of addressing murder as their themes, they both give us perfect examples of murder. Kino killed a man trying to steal his pearl, whereas Matt killed Jim in greed that he would take all the diamonds for himself.

Poverty is another exceptional theme that both authors use. In The Pearl, Steinbeck describes at the beginning of the book how Kino lived in a brush house and had a limited amount of food. “The ants were busy on the ground (of Kino’s house), big black ones with shiny bodies, and little dusty quick ants.” This quote told us that Kino’s house was not a good one, since there are ants on the ground and they didn’t try to remove them or kill them. Jack London uses the same theme, poverty, in his short story “ A Piece of Steak”. London had written “… when money was flush, too open-handed for his own good.” London had said “… too open-handed for his own good,” because he uses the money all up, causing him to have one final fight, which he gambles the rest of his money on. London also wrote “ King was old and old men fighting in second-hand clubs couldn’t run up bills with tradesmen.” London explains two things in this quote. The first one is Tom King is getting old, so he can’t fight a lot to get money for his family, and Tom King not fighting means he cannot pay his bills. London and Steinbeck both address themes in their own ways. London addresses poverty as not being able to pay your bills, whereas Steinbeck shows poverty as not being able to have a proper house.

Even though Jack London and John Steinbeck show their themes in ways that are streets apart, they both give perfect examples for the themes of greed, murder, and poverty. These themes are linked to the hook for many reasons. The hook is connected to poverty because Kino and Tom King both have nothing, but they use what they have and make the most of it. It is also connected to greed because if you are greedy, you can’t play the rest of your “deck”. The hook is related to murder because the “deck” can’t be won by cheating. Jack London and John Steinbeck address the same themes of greed, murder, and poverty in The Pearl, “Just Meat,” and “A Piece Of Steak” by making their characters go through these hardships.  

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