The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Summary: In The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Kino's family suffers the effects of a their child's scorpion sting. Finding "the Pearl of the World" offers hope but because of greed the story ends in tragedy. Kino loses his house, boat and son. Kino and Juana return the pearl to waters from which it came.


Kino - A Fisherman, Juana's husband, and Coyotito's father.

Juana - Kino's wife and Coyotito's mother, Juana means "woman".

Coyotito - The baby, son of Kino and Juana.

Doctor - Also called the "healer".

Juan Tomas - Kino's older brother, an addition to the original tale.

Apolonia - Juan Tomas' "fat" wife.

Chapter One

  • Kino remembers the songs of his people which inspire him to think of a song which is called the "Song of the Family"
  • When the scorpion appears, the "Song of Evil" plays in Kino's ears which layers negatively upon the "Song of the Family"
  • Coyotito is stung by the scorpion and Juana wants the doctor to come
  • The "Song of the Family" plays with a steely tone when Kino realizes how determined Juana is about getting the doctor for Coyotito's scorpion bite
  • The "Song of Evil" pounds as Kino visits the Doctor with fear and disdain because the Doctor's race has treated his race as "simple animals"
  • The doctor calls Kino's people animals by saying he is not a "Veterinary" and demands to know if Kino's people have money to treat the "bug bite"

Chapter Two

  • Kino's canoe is a symbol of generations of having the ability to feed one's wife and make a profit
  • Coyotito's swelling gets worse which offers a sense of urgency
  • When Kino was collecting pearls there was a song with the beat of his pounding heart and the melody of the song was the gray-green water
  • There was a hidden song: "Song of the Pearl That Might Be" which was introduce "clearly and softly" into the Song of The Undersea
  • Kino find an "ancient oyster" and finds a pearl, "perfect as the moon" and as large as a "sea-gulls egg"
  • The poison then at the end of the chapter leaves the baby's shoulder which combined with the finding of the pearl makes Kino very happy

Chapter Three

  • It is noted that a town has a "whole emotion" and that news travels quickly within that town
  • Rumor spreads that Kino had found the Pearl of the World including the doctor
  • Kino becomes every man's enemy because he stands between them and their dreams
  • Music of the pearl merged with the music of the family
  • After thinking about marriage with Juana and thinking about getting "new" clothes, the music of the pearl rises like a "chorus of trumpets in his ears"
  • Kino thinks of buying a rifle which is known to break down barriers
  • "The Music of The Pearl" was shrilling with triumph in Kino and he thought about his son and how he would be going to school
  • The priest comes to tell Kono to give thanks to "Him" that has given him the treasure and who would be giving guidance in the future
  • His neighbors bring in faintly and weekly the melody of the morning and the music of evil
  • Kino let's the doctor treat Coyotito because he did not want to take the chance with Coyotito's life
  • As Coyotito's became very sick after the doctor's visit, Juana tried to moan out the Song of the Family to protect him and the uncertainty forced upon Kino the music of evil
  • The doctor seemingly saves Coyotito's life and then Kino says that he will pay the doctor bill with what he gets in price for the "Pearl of the World"
  • When asked by Juana who he feared about where he hid the pearl, he said that he feared "everyone"
  • The music of evil played as they slept
  • Someone breaks into Kino's home and there was terror
  • Juana exclaims that the pearl is like a "sin" and that it will "destroy" Kino's family
  • Juana wants the pearl to be destroyed, but Kino says that they will sell the pearl and the good will remain as the bad is exterminated
  • The pearl has music of "promise and delight" and brings with it "future", "security" and "comfort"
  • The music of the undersea plays, Kino and Juana smile and there is hope

Chapter Four

  • The town acts as one nervous system and all know that in La Paz that the pearl is to be sold this day
  • The pearl buyers actually worked together and not apart to buy for the lowest prices, a low price they would offer Kino for his pearl
  • Neighbor's hoped that the pearl would not turn Kino's head, make a rich man of him and destroy him for he was liked
  • He wore his hat aggressively and only one man walked with him to denote the seriousness of the whole affair, Juan Tomas, his brother
  • Kino tells a dealer that he is trying to cheat Kino and pearl is only a curiosity because there is no market for this type of pearl
  • As the velvet pearl rested on the black velvet in the pearl dealer's shop, evil music played , and the dealer could not keep his eyes off of it
  • Three other dealers examined the pearl and played too hard a game for the lowest price
  • Kino knew he was being cheated and others said may be he was "brave" man and from his fierce courage would they all benefit
  • "Fearful others" thought that Kino destroyed himself
  • Kino defies the structure by believing that his pearl is of great value even though the buyers say that it is not of great value
  • Kino hears the dark music of the enemy and feels like all roads are "blocked against him"
  • Juana hears the song of the family and uses the song of the family to fight against the dark music and protect her family
  • Again, Juana cries about the pearl being evil and tells him to destroy or throw the pearl into the sea "where it belongs"
  • Kino says that he is a man, he will not be cheated and that he will go to the capital in the morning
  • Juana says that a man could be killed and says to throw the pearl into the sea

Chapter Five

  • Juana takes the pearl to try and throw it into the sea
  • Kino follows her to the shore and strikes her down and rage is replaced by "sick disgust"
  • There is a struggle between greedy hands and Kino
  • Juana accepts the murder like rage in Kino for he said that he was a "man"
  • Juana abandons the past after seeing the stranger that Kino killed and that she knew that there was no retrieving the peace before the time of the pearl
  • Kino discovers that the canoe is damaged with a "great hole" and he becomes an animal through preservation of himself and his family
  • Kino never considers stealing his neighbor's canoe and would never consider breaking a boat
  • Kino's home is burned down by "the dark ones" and things turned asunder, an obvious search for the pearl took place
  • Kino tells Juan Tomas that he had killed a man in the dark and Juan Tomas tells Kino that he should try to sell the pearl to make peace for himself
  • Juan Tomas and Apolonia hide Kino until the "new night" in the darkness of the house
  • Kino tells Juan Tomas that he will travel north towards the cities and that he will not give up the pearl
  • The pearl has become Kino's soul

Chapter Six

  • In the dark of the night, Kino feels the animal like instincts within him grow as they turn North and are guided by the stars
  • The music of the pearl was "triumpant" in Kino's head
  • Juana said that perhaps the pearl's value was an illusion while Kino argues that the robbers would not have attempted to steal it if it had no value
  • Kino mentions again that he will buy a rifle, marry Juana in a church and Coyotito will learn to read
  • The music of the pearl becomes "sinister" in his ears and becomes "interwoven with the music of evil"
  • Kino discovers two men on foot and one on horseback looking for something and he suspects it is for him
  • Kino thinks that he must go for the rifle if he and his family are discovered
  • Kino realizes that the "trackers" will find the pearl because he cannot cover his tracks
  • Kino runs for high ground because he is turning into an animal that is being "pursued"
  • Juana shows her faith and dedication to Kino by refusing to hide while Kino let the trackers away from Coyotito and Juana
  • After drinking at a pool, Kino finds a cave in which he thinks they can hide until the trackers go up the mountain
  • Kino makes a plan to ambush the tracker with the rifle before moonlight so they couldn't see him coming and says "it is the only way"
  • As Kino approached the trackers, he could hear the music of the enemy, "low and pulsing, nearly asleep" and the Song of the Family was "fierce and sharp"
  • After his assault on the trackers, he notices something is wrong on the mountainKIno
  • Kino and Juana return home with the dead Coyotito hardened by the experience travel, fighting and family bonding
  • Kino and Juana walk through the town and the people of La Paz let them walk through and there was "pillars of black fear about them"
  • The Song of the Family becomes a battlecry and Kino and Juana pass their house and canoe without looking at them
  • Kino sees many tragic and evil things coming from the pearl when Kino and Juana arrive at the shore such as the dead Coyotito
  • Juana tells Kino that he should be the one to throw the pearl and he does with all of his might to repair some of his manhood
  • Kino and Juana stood side by side until the music of the pearl was gone

Other Notes:

  • John Steinbeck shows well the relationship between Kino and Juana (man and woman)
  • Kino is "a man" and shows off the traits of men obsessed with a goal, no matter if it endagers his family and ruins his life
  • Only those who have been rich and powerful already can realize the power of riches in La Paz

© 2009 copyright The Pearl | John Steinbeck