Monday, March 19, 2012

Oh charmer!

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am in love with John Steinbeck. In fact, if he were still alive I believe that I could make him a very fitting fourth wife. I would encourage his literary talents and polish his Nobel Prize metal weekly. The fact that he died nearly 20 years before I was even born is probably a sign that it just wasn’t meant to be. If I can’t be with him in real life, I will have to be content in getting to know him more through his literature. I’d like to eventually read all of his works, which is why I chose The Pearl for my next book.

Although this is just a short novella (less than 100 pages), it shouldn’t be counted out among his other great work. It can’t necessarily stand up against comparison to say The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden but it has its own merits due to Steinbeck’s true talent as a writer. The Pearl is a folktale turned parable in which the main character’s life is ruined by just the prospect of great wealth, which a great pearl he has found could bring him. The short story packs a powerful view of the downfall of “the American dream” and the contrast of strong community ties versus a life of wealth. The morals of the story are not unfamiliar by any means, but they are ideas that we could stand to be reminded of as often as possible.

The true beauty of this short book was in Steinbeck’s use of music throughout the work. Yep, I said music. You usually don’t think of music underlying the scenes of a book because you just can’t hear it. Not to mention, music can be an extremely difficult thing to express in words. Movies have the musical theme thing locked down, but who would have thought that books can incorporate music too? But Steinbeck did it so well! You can almost hear the calm sustaining music of the family as they go about their morning routine. Your heart almost skips a beat when the song of evil begins to take more and more of a hold in the lives of the main character and his family. Just like a movie, without the music underlying the action this novella would be so much less powerful.

It’s impossible to conjecture whether the musical element would have worked so well if the novel was written in a time before movies. Maybe we need that framework, in which music compliments images and words, to really appreciate The Pearl. Even if that is the case, Steinbeck did a phenomenal job with this book. I can only assume it’s because he was a genius.

"A plan is a real thing, and things projected are experienced. A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities -- never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked." ~John Steinbeck, The Pearl

No comments:

Post a Comment