Rereading a classic can be a double edged sword. You may have terrible memories of being forced to read it in school. I remember reading this book in middle school and I had a vague recollection of the story. Reading it now for my book group was a completely different experience. Reading it in muddle school, we focused on plot and pacing, climax and other literary elements. Reading it now, I was free to enjoy and notice the beauty in Steinbeck’s sparse but by no means simple prose. At just shy of 125 pages, this short novella or parable is retelling of a classic Mexican folktale that Steinbeck wrote and published first in a Women’s magazine. He is rumored to have written it specifically to turn into a screenplay. I have not seen the movie and am not sure if I want to. I’m not sure that a movie can capture the simplicity of the life that Kino and his wife Juana led, nor can it capture the fleeting moment when their lives change as the scorpion bites baby Coyotito.
As with most parables, the characters are not fully fleshed three dimensional characters, they are carefully placed embodiments of base traits such as good and evil. There is little room for middle ground, unless you read and see beyond the page, to the subtleness that flows from the character’s actions. Of course, as a parable there is a moral to the story. What is the moral? Be careful of what you wish for? Don’t try to rise above your station in life? What is the point of trying to achieve success when there will be horrific repercussions? I’m not entirely sure what Steinbeck’s moral was, I’m not a literature professor, just a reader who enjoyed the book for what it was.