He is promarily a masculine writer.. He has proved himself an original and highly individualistic force. His Books provoke the masculine mind because of his fearless grappling with ideas and human passions as well as sacred taboos. The dry rot of gentility has never touched him and neither sex nor a women's honor nor romantic love loom large as a man's serious problems in his veiw.
Edmund C. Richards, NAR (June, 1937).
Surely no one writes lovelier stories, yeilding a purer pleasure. Here are tragedy and suffering and voilence, to be sure, but with all that is sharp and harsh distilled to a golden honey, ripe and mellow. Even cruelty and murder grow somehow pastoral, idyllic, seen through this amber light, as one might watch the struggles of fish and water snakes in the depths of a mountain pool. Beyond question, Steinbeck has a magic to take the sting out of reality and yet leave it all there except the sting. Perhaps it is partly the carefulness of his art, with endless pains devising and arranging every detail until all fits perfectly and smooth and suave as polished ivory. But probably it is more the enchantment of his style, of that liquid melody which flows on and on.
T.K. Whipple, NR (Oct. 12, 1938).
A Pacific Coast Indian finds a giant pearl and everyone tries to rob him of it. The dealers tell him it is a monstosity only worth a thousand pesos as a museum exhibit. Thieves, spurred on by an avaricios French doctor, break into his little hut, He kills one and takes to the mountains with his wife and child. He ambushes his pursuers, but the child is shot. He and his wife return to the sea and throw the pearl away. That is the story of Mr. Steinbeck's short novel. The Pearl is written with studied simplicity and some quasi-biblical touches intended to reinforce its allegorical effect. The exact location and the nationality of the exploiters ecpect that the docter, are left indefinite. Mr. Stienbeck makes a strenuous attempt to get right inside the mind of Kino, the finder of the pearl, and produces a vivid, touching little picture of his humble family life. The result is a taut and, on the whole, very effective peice of story- telling even if it leaves the of few wants. And yet what Kino wants is not luxurt and riches, but more advantages for himself and his family, a better return for his labor. That is what the pearl offers him and what he throws away witht he pearl. And the narrator tells us that it is quite proper for a man to increase his wants : ".. it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have." The narrator also tells us what we must be tactful with the gods, who "do not love men's plans, and ... do not lvoe success unless it comes by accident." It looks as if we were once more being taught the lesson of Cup of Gold and Of Mice of Men, the vanity of human wishes: our goals may be fine, but we just cannot reach them.
Joseph Fontenrose, John Steinbeck: An Introduction and Interpretation (1963)