Material Greed, Material Society


Throughout the history of mankind, the lust for wealth has
been the cause of wars, murders, and many types of criminal
acts. In the story, "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck, the
pearl started out as a sparkling jewel of splendor, and
then evolved into a malignant growth of evil. The desire to
possess it and the wealth that it represents, changes the
lives of three law-abiding people, Juana, the Priest, and
the doctor and ultimately destroys them.
Juana, the faithful wife of Kino, a poor fisherman, had
always lived a spiritual life. Even though she was poor,
she felt content and happy. When her son Coyito was stung
by a scorpion, she immediately turned to God and began to
pray for her son's life. When the child's health did not
improve, Juana took the baby to the doctor. Since he only
treated the wealthy people of the town, he refused to treat
the child and turned them away. In desperation, Kino
turned to the sea to seek his fortune. Luck was on his
side, and he found a very large and beautiful specimen of a
When Juana first saw the "Pearl of The World", she felt as
though all of her prayers had been answered. If she could
have foreseen the future, she would have had second
thoughts about this rare jewel That night, as they were
about to go to sleep, he heard a "sound so soft that it
might have been simply a thought..." and he quickly
attacked the trespasser. This is where the problems for
Juana and her family began. Kino committed an act that he
ordinarily would not have been capable of doing. The
feeling of greed and fear mounted in Kino's body and made
him lose control of his actions. Soon even Juana who had
always had faith in her husband, began to doubt him... "It
will destroy us all" she yelled. She had tried to help Kino
before too much trouble had occurred, but she realized that
she was not competent enough to help.
The Hippocratic oath which is taken by all doctors states
that he/she is expected to aid all people who are sick,
(not just the ones that are capable of paying the medical
fee). The Doctor in the village of La Paz, was swayed by
greed, did not feel bound by this oath, and only helped
those who could afford his service. He would never have
dared to refuse to help a wealthy lawyer or noblemen, but
thought nothing of turning Kino away when the group of
peasants arrived at his door with the sick child. He said,
"Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites for
'little Indians'? I am a doctor, not a veterinarian". When
he heard about the pearl and realized that Kino owned it,
he changed his mind and went to the fisherman's home. The
doctor's sudden "desire" to help the child was not an act
of kindness but one of greed. He expected that Kino would
pay him by giving him the pearl. 
Another person who misused his profession was the Priest of
the church in La Paz. In order to receive the sacraments,
the person requesting the sacrament must "donate" a small
amount of money to the church. It was only after Kino
found the pearl, that the priest looked differently upon
him. In the hope of gaining possession of the pearl and
achieving social status for himself in the eyes of the
church, the Priest allowed greed to overcome him and he
lost sight of his "calling". 
In "The Pearl", Steinbeck expresses the fact that man's
manifestation for wealth and property leads to the self
destruction of man, both mentally, and physically. The
Priest of La Paz, The doctor, and Juana were all poisoned
by greed. 


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