Chasing Freedom

Throwing Back the Pearl

By May 25, 2012One Comment

As an English teacher and book lover, I thoroughly enjoy reading the classics of literature. One of the books I read this month was John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. Judging by the size of the book, you wouldn’t expect to come away with having learned a valuable lesson, but that’s exactly what happens. I learned a lesson that could basically make every problem I will ever face vanish into thin air if I utilize its principles.

The conflict of the story arises when the baby of a happy, yet poor Mexican family gets stung by a scorpion. The family can’t afford to see a doctor, so Kino, the father, goes out to sea to find a pearl that would fund his son’s healing and recovery. Kino comes away from his dive with a pearl of such magnitude, the town becomes chaotic and jealous. Even the pearl buyers have heard of its size and beauty, and they try to swindle Kino and refuse to pay him anything close to what the pearl is worth. All Kino thinks about is the pearl; it consumes his mind, and his family ends up falling a part over it. Thieves haunt him and his family in the night, and Kino even ends up killing a man from his village over the pearl. Consequently, he and his family have to flee for safety, and at the end of the story, the baby has to pay the ultimate price as a result of his father’s greed.

Kino never listened to his wife when she spoke to him with reason. She tried to get him to throw back the pearl, and she begged him to see that the pearl was tearing the family to pieces; however, the vision of happiness Kino had programmed into his head wouldn’t allow reason to seep in. How many of us can sympathize with this situation?

Meanwhile, when I told my mother that I had read this book, she began to explain that she read it in high school. This just goes to prove that the lesson in The Pearl is timeless and that we can translate its message into every avenue of our lives. For instance, I thought of my former eating and weight issues in relation to this lesson. At one time, I achieved a weight I thought would bring me the peace and happiness I had desired for years. Oddly enough, that peace and happiness was never satisfied, and because of it, I lost relationships, my strength, my personality, my hopes, my dreams…it stripped me of life. I lived this way until I made a decision: a decision to throw back my pearl.

Sometimes it’s necessary–crucial, even–to throw back our “pearls.” It’s one of the hardest things we will ever be faced with because it doesn’t make sense. When we make ourselves believe that all of our problems will be done away with if ________ happens, it’s difficult to believe life could be great in any other capacity. More often than not, however, we search our entire lives for a “pearl,” not knowing that we often end up finding more than what we bargained for in the process.

In short, love, as sacred and as pure as it truly is, is the foundation that will stabilize every aspect of our lives. It’s where real happiness comes from; it can’t be bought. God gave us His ultimate example, and if we model ourselves and our families after it, we will always have provision.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Eugene Hung says:

    I confess I’ve never read The Pearl, but thank you for giving us the Spark Notes version! (Just kidding; I’m sure you love it when your students whip those out.) Steinbeck sure came up with a great metaphor. Instantly, I’m transported in my own mind to a different kind of precious pearl, the “precious” of The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring that became an addiction to almost every person who carried it. It’s great to have these stories that hold up a mirror to our souls. As a former pastor, I’ll suggest that these stories stay with us in a different way, and sometimes a deeper way, than even a sermon typically does. Thanks, Mallory, for sharing with us some great literature with a deep, reflection-spurring theme.