Of John Steinbeck's many classic novels, only one is beloved by ninth graders everywhere. Finally in a definitive audiobook edition, The Pearl as read by Hector Elizondo is a long overdue treat for listeners of all ages. Whether you skipped this required reading in high school or simply don't remember much about it, now is the time to revisit Steinbeck's excellent little vision of an ancient Mexican folk tale about the perils of obsessive greed. A story of great symbolism and unflinching morality, the lessons here are no less true in our contemporary circumstances than they were hundreds of years ago.
Hector Elizondo is a perfect fit for this narration. Winner of an Emmy and an Obie, veteran of both screen and stage, Elizondo is no stranger to the gravitas of parables. Although he has contributed voice work to a dozen audiobook dramas with ensemble casts, this is the first time he has narrated a book completely on his own. What a treat to hear his familiar grizzled voice painting the scene of a tiny, impoverished town in need of a miracle. When a scorpion bites a young family man's infant son, the man becomes desperate for money to pay the doctor that can save the child's life.
Upon finding an enormous pearl deep in the water and just in the nick of time, the family begins to dream of their son's bright future. Elizondo puts his grit and gravel to good use conveying the tenacity with which the family clings to the idea of sending their son to school, thus escaping their meager life of poverty. But the enchanting music of the pearl speaks to the whole town, and soon all are clamoring for a piece of the family's good fortune. Hector Elizondo impeccably renders John Steinbeck's haunting admonition against avarice, and this short novel is a must-have for any audio library. Megan Volpert
In this short book illuminated by a deep understanding and love of humanity, John Steinbeck retells an old Mexican folk tale: the story of the great pearl, how it was found, and how it was lost. For the diver Kino, finding a magnificent pearl means the promise of a better life for his impoverished family. His dream blinds him to the greed and suspicions the pearl arouses in him and his neighbors, and even his loving wife cannot temper his obsession or stem the events leading to the tragedy.
For Steinbeck, Kino and his wife illustrate the fall from innocence of people who believe that wealth erases all problems. Originally published in 1947, The Pearl shows why Steinbeck’s style has made him one of the most beloved American writers: it is a simple story of simple people, recounted with the warmth and sincerity and unrivaled craftsmanship Steinbeck brings to his writing. It is tragedy in the great tradition, beautifully conveying not despair but hope for mankind.
©1945, 1973 Elaine Steinbeck, John Steinbeck IV, Thom Steinbeck (P)2011 Penguin Audio
I've always felt this story was better than The Great Gatsby. You get just about the same amount of hope and tragedy if not more in shorter Chapters. This was my first time hearing it in audio, and the way the Narrator performed it made me love it greater than I had before. Thank You.
I love this story and teach it. I use this in my classroom. The students enjoy it, too.
Elizondo is great for this, but there are multiple instances where he skips words or a line of narration. Not a big deal, but certainly noticeable -- especially since I've read it almost a dozen times, and there's a classroom full of kids who notice.
they are about tte same
the death of the baby
the fight where he defended himself
Steinbeck's greatest achievement was to give voice to the poor. Steinbeck's critics could say he romanticized his subjects by making them all good souls who always had the high moral ground and earthy common sense, but so many of his subjects had been marginalized their whole lives that they were nearly invisible and so, I believe, deserving of a champion.
Yet many of Steinbeck's stories end badly for the main characters, they are almost always defeated by the forces they hoped to struggle free from. For a time each character in a Steinbeck has hope for the future only to succumb to the cold reality that the rich and the powerful will remain rich and powerful and the poor will remain poor and exploited.
Yet still he gave a voice to the poor and he showed his audience how difficult it was for the less fortunate to rise out of their situation, how desperate they could be to change their lives, and how terrible it was for them to fail. Steinbeck imparts on the reader a great empathy for his characters because it is vital for us to feel the pain of these people. This is why, I believe, Steinbeck's characters are almost always "good, honest people" because we believe ourselves to be people like his characters. And so when we see these characters struggle and fail we also struggle and fail and for a moment we empathize with these people.
Had Steinbeck's characters been more like Tolstoy's, full of faults and failings and hubris, he would have been less successful to get us to actually feel the pain of poverty and hopelessness because we would have had an excuse to blame the characters for their failings. Yet when the characters are a sketch, when we see only the good and watch how the bad washes over them, we understand, if only a little, the plight of people who cannot escape from their situations.
This was Steinbeck's greatest achievement: he got us to actually care about people we might otherwise never even notice. Steinbeck didn't need to create realistic characters like Tolstoy's because he knew his readers were full of faults and prejudices; his job was to get those very people to not be selfish for a few hundred pages and show them how our insensitivity to the less fortunate could be devastating.
This story, like almost all of Steinbeck's stories could easily be updated to our own times with very few changes. Replace the pearl of the world with a lottery ticket, move the setting to an inner city or desperate country, and the truths would still be the same: the poor will be taken advantage of by the powerful and any resistance on the part of the poor will be dealt harshly by the law, no matter the justification.
And so when we ask ourselves "Why did Steinbeck never offer any solution to these problems", then we should look in the mirror because he was actually asking us that question, he only gave us the tools to recognize there was even a problem to begin with.
I am listening to it for a third time! The story is very good; the reader is exceptional!
Kino, the Father
I work a lot. I can listen to books while I work. My new hobby. Thank God I can multi-task!
The 2nd best. I had read it years ago. Enjoyed then and now as well. Great listening!
Juana. She seemed to have the balanced insight into their dilemma.
When they were frighten awaiting for the trackers under the bush in their escape. That scene had always stuck to my mind.
Their return home, certainly.
Will recommend to anyone.
I have an english degree from the University of Wisconsin River-Falls (UWRF). I read, write, and listen to stories daily.
The Pearl examines what happens to Man once he's received his hearts desire. I think Steinbeck was a little hung up on this idea (it provides a thematic material for his novel The Winter of Our Discontent). The Pearl also shows how hard it is for an individual man to fight an institution (much like chapter five of The Grapes of Wrath). Hector Elizondo performs flawlessly, an excellent voice for Steinbecks' words. If you're familiar with Steinbeck, then there is great comparison and contrast value here.
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