John Steinbeck's "The Pearl" and "Of Mice and Men" share connections, both in the setting of the stories and in some of the themes, such as the importance of relationships during hard times, the vulnerability of dreams, and the struggle to make sense of the world when life is so hard.
Both "The Pearl" and "Of Mice and Men" take place in Southern California in the early 20th century. The action in "The Pearl" occurs just after the turn of the century, while "Of Mice and Men" is set during the Depression of the 1930s. And in both novels, the main characters are poor, working-class people who rely on the land or sea to provide a living for the wealthier people willing to take advantage of the efforts of hardworking Kino, in "The Pearl," and George and Lennie, in "Of Mice and Men."
The relationships between Kino and his wife, Juana, in "The Pearl," and the relationship between friends George and Lennie in "Of Mice and Men," represent the importance of close, personal ties when you're struggling against the world. As the rich seek to exploit the hard work of pearl divers or migrant workers, the oppressed can often only find comfort and escape in those suffering similar oppression.
Shattered Dreams (Spoiler)
Steinbeck makes it clear in both novels that dreams of a better life don't always come true, especially when society is making life hard for working people. In "The Pearl," Kino dreams of a future where his son gets a good education and can rise above his station in life. Of course, Kino's trouble after finding the great pearl eventually lead to the death of his son, and, of course, any such dreams. In "Of Mice and Men," George and Lennie also dream of a happier and easier future, but trouble finds them, too, and Lennie's death brings an end to those optimistic dreams.
Mystery of Existence
In both novels, characters struggle to make sense of their world, just as they do in Steinbeck's other classic work, "The Grapes of Wrath." The author even poses the question whether the mysteries of life can ever be fully explain or understood, given the unpredictable nature of human behavior and events beyond one's control. Kino initially thinks the huge pearl he has discovered will bring peace and prosperity to his life and his family, but his behavior changes for the worse as events start to stray from his plan. And in "Of Mice and Men," Lennie's unpredictable behavior eventually leads to his death at the hands of George, a situation George could never have anticipated in his role as the protector of the giant Lennie, who didn't understand his strength or the motives of people around him.
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