Steinbeck's audacious explanation of what makes a man, a man and the perils of ambition.

Written by Cole Schafer


A pearl forms when something foreign, like a parasite, enters into the mouth of an oyster and irritates its soft insides.

To protect itself, the oyster produces a fluid called “nacre” which coats the object. If it does this coating enough times, eventually, a pearl is born.

Pearl Divers of the past would tie heavy objects around their waists and drop to the bottom of the ocean where they’d scour the sand for promising oysters.

Sometimes, they’d get wildly lucky and find a pearl they could retire off of.

This is the premise behind John Steinbeck’s novella, The Pearl. In it, we follow a Pearl Diver and his wife who discover a pearl that brings about great peril and evil and costs them something precious.

In this short book, John Steinbeck gives us a look inside what wealth can do to a man’s soul and, perhaps, what makes a man prone to this evil…


*Steinbeck is writing now*

“He said, ‘I am a man,’ It meant that he was half insane and half god. It meant that Kino would drive his strength against a mountain and plunge his strength against the sea. Juana, in her woman’s soul knew that the mountain would stand while the man broke himself; that the sea would surge while the man drowned in it. And yet it was this thing that made him a man, half insane and half god, and Juana had need of a man; she could not live without a man.”

And, I’m not sure where any of this ends up. But, this is a reminder to myself not to let my ambition for life’s pearls devour my soul.

By Cole Schafer.