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“The Pearl” by John Steinbeck

‘The Pearl’ by John Steinbeck begins in a brush hut by the sea where Kino lives with his wife Juana and his son Coyotito in absolute poverty. Although they live this poor life, Kino and Juana are very happy and desire no change in their life. At this point in the story, they both have no ambitions and have a good family life. Because of this, Kino hears the song of the family, “In Kino’s head there was a song now, clear and soft, and if he had been able to speak of it, he would have called it the song of the family.”

Kino hears the family’s song when he is around his family, living his simple, happy life. After Coyotito had been stung by the scorpion while lying in the hanging box where he slept and after the doctor had refused to cure him, Kino and Juana, with Coyotito in her arms, went out to sea in Kino’s canoe for him to do his daily work as a pearl fisherman, this canoe was all that Kino owned. It had been passed from Kino’s grandfather to Kino’s father and so to Kino. Now because of the need for money to cure Coyotito, Kino and Juana both had a desire to find a pearl,

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“And because the need was great and the desire was great, the little secret melody of the pearl that might be was stronger this morning.” This was the first time that Kino and Juana had ever desired anything. On that morning, while out at sea, Kino found an oyster that contained a large and perfect pearl,

  • “It was the greatest pearl in the world.”
  • Now that Kino has found ‘the Pearl of the World,’ he begins to have great ambitions and desires,
  • “We will be married – in the church.”
  • “We will have new clothes.”
  • “A rifle.”
  • “My son will go to school.”
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All these things were more than Kino could ever dream of before. Now they became his ambitions. Juana, however, after the finding of the pearl, still did not have any ambitions,

  • “Juana caught her breath and moaned a little.”

This shows that Juana knew that ‘the Pearl of the World’ would not be the answer to all their problems and that she would prefer to continue with their poor and simple but happy life. To sell his pearl and fulfill his desires and ambitions, Kino goes to the offices of the pearl buyers with Juana, Juan Tom�s and a procession consisting of the people of the brush huts, the beggars and the stragglers. At the offices of the pearl buyers, Kino is offered only one thousand and five hundred pesos for his magnificent pearl. Kino knows that he is being cheated and is outraged,

  • “It is worth fifty thousand. You know it. You want to cheat me.”
  • Kino, enraged, storms out of the office and claims that he will sell hi pearl elsewhere,
  • “I am cheated. My pearl is not for sale here. I will go, perhaps even to the capital.”
  • Although Kino reacts in this angry way, Juana again does not react at all,
  • “Juana followed, trotting after him.”

This shows that the pearl does not interest Juana and that she would have preferred Kino to have never found it at all. After the trouble with the pearl buyers, Juana and Juan Tom�s know that Kino is not safe. However, Kino still insists that he keeps the pearl and goes to the capital to sell it. That night, when Kino, Juana and Coyotito are back in their brush hut, Kino steps outside of the hut and is attacked. Kino does not see the attackers and is left only half-conscious. With the aid of Juana, Kino regains consciousness, but Juana is now trying to persuade Kino to rid them of the pearl and the evil it carries with it,

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“Kino, this pearl is evil. Let us destroy it before it destroys us. Let us crush it between two stones. Let us – let us throw it back in the sea where it belongs. Kino, it is evil, it is evil!” However, Kino insists on keeping his great pearl and going to the capital to sell it and get the deserved amount of money. Kino insists that he will not be cheated and that he will keep fighting, “I will fight this thing. I will win over it.” “We will take our canoe, and we will go over the sea and the mountains to the capital, you and I. We will not be cheated.”

The next day Kino, Juana and Coyotito set off in Kino’s canoe on their journey over the sea and the mountains to the capital. While in the mountains, Kino and Juana see the men hunting Kino and his pearl down below them. Kino decides that he will attack them before they find and attack him. So Kino hides Juana and Coyotito in a cave and approaches the hunters. He finds that two are sleeping, and the other is carrying a rifle. At this point, the man hears a noise in the mountains and aims his rifle upwards and pulls the trigger. Kino leaps and stabs the man with his knife and takes his rifle,

“Kino was in mid-leap when the gun crashed, and the barrel-flash made a picture on his eyes.” Now that Kino had a rifle, one of the first things he wanted when he found the pearl of the world, he felt powerful and shot the other two men while they were lying helplessly on the ground. Kino was like a machine now, shooting everyone and everything in his way. After all, the men were dead, and the mountains were silent; Kino thought and knew something was wrong,

  • “And then Kino stood uncertainly. Something was wrong.”
  • Just then he realized – realized that he had killed his only son Coyotito,
  • “The keening, moaning, rising hysterical cry from the little cave in the side of the stone mountain, the cry of death.”
  • After the death of Coyotito, Kino and Juana returned to the city and their brush hut and their poor and simple family life,
  • “In Kino’s ears, the song of the family was as fierce as a cry.”
  • Now Kino realized that the pearl had been bringing them evil all along and that Juana was right about it,
  • “And the pearl was ugly; it was grey, like a malignant growth. And Kino heard the music of the pearl, distorted and insane.”
  • Kino decided to get rid of the pearl and so get rid of the evil and darkness that it carries with it,
  • “And Kino drew back his arm and flung the pearl with all his might. Kino and Juana watched it go, winking and glimmering under the setting sun.”
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And so the pearl was gone forever into the sea where it belonged, and from once it came, and Kino and Juana were back to their brush hut and living their family life as normal. “And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.”

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"The Pearl" by John Steinbeck. (2021, Sep 13). Retrieved August 8, 2022, from