The Pearl and Of Mice and Men Comparison
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The Pearl and Of Mice and Men, both parables by John Steinbeck, are stories with different themes. Yet despite the differences in the dreams and ambitions of Steinbeck’s protagonists, his characters all share the hardship of having the will of society pitted against them. George and Lenny, from Of Mice and Men, travel from place to place, wandering as vagrants and accepting whatever charity available. They hope to create a sanctuary to shield their disillusioned lives. Quite opposite in situation is Kino, the poor American Native from The Pearl. He finds a pearl with the potential to uplift his family from poverty and discrimination. While the lives of the people are quite different, what binds them is that their dreams clash against the fabric of society, inevitably leading to their demise.
Despite the repression that society throws against them, George and Lenny survive through a hope kept alive by each other. With no relatives, and few friends, little sympathy is garnered towards these desolate stragglers. They are victims of a society where they are unwanted, useless outcasts. Yet something peculiar sets them apart from other discarded men, a hope, a mysterious latent potential. As Lenny so adequately put it,
“Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place… with us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.
So long as they have this future, George and Lenny can endure whatever torment society places against them, earnestly endeavoring to overcome their shortcomings.
What is tragic about the “future” that George and Lenny share is that it directly contradicts the rules of society. As they work diligently for this fool’s errand, Crook warns,
“every one of them got a little piece of land in his head, an’ never a god damn one of’ em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’ I read plenty of books out here. Nobody gets to heaven and nobody gets no land. (74) “
Society is intolerant of their dreams, holding no quarters for even the smallest of fantasies. Proven by the countless numbers of others who faced the same sad fate, George and Lenny’s ambitions are fodder for apathetic world. Yet they are helpless characters, needing hope to simply endure.
The Pearl is even more tragic, in the sense that society actually gives Kino a chance, only to change its mind and withhold it again. Before finding the Pearl, Kino was content with his lowly position in life, willingly obeying the commandments of his leaders. After finding the Pearl though, Kino could never be the same. Kino’s new behavior is revealed hen he stated “‘this pearl has become my soul,’ said Kino. ‘If I give it up I shall lose my soul'(67)”. Kino had seen the potential of the Pearl lay out before him, and he could not willingly forfeit it. Because of this defiant gesture, Kino embarked on a futile journey against an invincible foe.
In the end of Steinbeck’s parables, his characters all suffer tragic ends resulting from their dreams. In the final confrontation, Kino’s family is crippled after the death of his child, and George is forced to kill his sole companion. By portraying his characters as people frustrated by their positions in life, clamorously demanding better prospects, Steinbeck creates a tragic allegory of mankind’s unjust society. The apathy and discrimination faced by Steinbeck’s characters is personified as a stoic, cruel wall, yielding nothing as Steinbeck’s characters charge blindly against its surface. Sometimes, for its own cruel amusement, as in the case of Steinbeck’s two parables, this wall will give the mien of letting opportunity pass, only to close with sound thud when its victims begin to hope. What his characters desire are fantasies in a bleak existence, futilely clashing against a society with no mercy. With no hope of ever succeeding, their dreams can only end in tragedy.