Old Man and the Sea vs. the Pearl

Somewhere between the dawn of time and the present day, man’s foot touched down on the earth for the first time, and from that point on, man had made an eternal connection to an invisible power greater than he: nature. Both being incredibly competent writers, Steinbeck and Hemmingway acknowledged this relationship and used it as fuel for their stories, portraying nature as both an antagonist and a protagonist. Though these two authors had indeed used nature for similar purposes, each had projected their own thoughts of the many possibilities of nature.

Immediately recognizable in Steinbeck’s The Pearl is the undying cruelty of nature. Sending a small, yet extremely deadly soldier from it’s dispensable army of creatures, nature begins it’s attack on Kino’s young son, Coyotito. After this devastating scorpion attack on her family, Juana still has faith in Mother Nature compensating for her wrongdoing, so Juana prays that Coyotito may miraculously recover. Not helping the child straight away, Mother Nature attempts to make amends for her actions by sending Kino a pearl, but not just any pearl.

She could have simply sent him a beautiful, normal sized pearl that would have paid the town’s doctor for medicine for Coyotito, but no. Mother Nature had to try and go above and beyond what she owed them, so she gave Kino the pearl. Steinbeck described this pearl as being “the great pearl, perfect as the moon. ” It was a pearl of unfathomable value, such value that nature risked jeopardizing the bonds of Kino’s family. Such wealth could have torn them apart in ways described by Steinbeck throughout the story; a man’s manifestation with obtaining riches could harm anyone close to him or in his path, such as Juana and Coyotito.

But lucky for these two, Kino was wiser than that, he knew the responsibility of having such power in the shape of a little ball. Maybe this is why Mother Nature instilled the pearl upon Kino, or maybe she was careless and ended up being lucky. Later on in the novel, Kino, Juana, and Coyotito have embarked on a journey to the capital to get a fair price for their pearl. On this trip, Mother Nature aided them, providing them shelter and good weather. All was well until the trio discovered they were being followed, but nature was there to help, giving them a high cave in which to crawl.

Unfortunately, the trackers were allowed by nature to ascend this mountain as well. Then, showing her initial cruelty once more, nature gave her coyotes the ability to howl like a child cries. As a result of this similarity, one of the followers shot Coyotito, mistaking him crying for a coyote howling. No matter how much good Mother Nature desires to do, her destruction will always surpass it. Though Mother Nature is just as unforgiving and powerful as ever, she comes across with a slightly more gentle feel in The Old Man and the Sea.

During nearly all the story, Santiago is out at sea fishing, confined in Mother Nature’s vast blue prison. While Santiago is in pursuit of the biggest fish in history, Mother Nature reveals her watchful eye by providing him with plenty of small fish to snack on for nutrients. Then, nature’s law holds up as the enormous marlin tires after swimming miles, and Santiago is able to seize and kill him. Then, on his journey home, Mother Nature releases her infinite destruction and sharks begin to thrive on the delicious meat of the marlin.

Santiago fights shark after shark, losing his club, part of the boat, and his harpoon in the process. Then as Mother Nature attempts to help Santiago, the reason the fish was a marlin had been revealed; Santiago could have used the fish’s long sword-like nose to fight sharks. Unfortunately, Santiago remains ignorant to this weapon of nature, and as punishment for his ignorance, nature’s evils, in the form of sharks, finish the remains of the marlin.

Santiago then returns to his home, a broken man at the hands of Mother Nature. Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Steinbeck’s The Pearl both render nature in multiple lights. On one hand, nature is seen as being ever-vigilant, looking out for the characters of the novel. On the other hand, nature is depicted as the devil’s sister, tearing through a family, or crushing a man’s spirit. Though different through her exact actions in these authors’ great works, Mother Nature is portrayed as similar beings.

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