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John Steinbeck wrote The Pearl during the time in which he was at the height of his fame. He had completed The Grapes of Wrath, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was renowned and reviled as a subversive, unpatriotic man who threatened the national interest through the socialist themes of his novels.
Steinbeck wrote The Pearl based on his personal convictions, and based the story on the biblical parable of a ?pearl of great price.' In this story, a jewel for which the merchant trades everything he owns becomes the metaphor for Heaven. Everything in the merchant's earthly existence, however, becomes worthless when compared to the joys of living with God in Heaven. However, Steinbeck uses the parable as a meditation on the American dream of success. Steinbeck, who himself had risen quickly to prosperity, explores how Kino, the protagonist of The Pearl, deals with his newfound prominence in the community and riches.