Kino, a poor Indian fisherman, lives on the Gulf of California
with his wife Juana and son Coyotito. Their simple hut is made of
brush, and the couple sleeps on mats thrown on the dirt floor, while
Coyotito sleeps in a hanging box. Like others in their poor village,
they depend on nature for survival.
As The Pearl begins, dawn is breaking. Kino watches the sun
rise and listens to the sounds of the morning. But within moments, a
dangerous situation develops. A poisonous scorpion stings Coyotito,
Kino’s infant son, and the baby’s screams draw people from all over
the village. Juana insists that the doctor be called, but Kino knows
the physician is Spanish and considers himself above treating poor
Indians. This does not satisfy Juana, who announces that if the doctor
will not come to the village, then they will go to his house. But the
doctor refuses to treat Coyotito because Kino is too poor.
Later that day, while Kino and Juana are fishing in the Gulf,
Kino finds an enormous pearl and cries out in joy. He believes the
pearl will make him rich and enable him to provide security for his
family. But Kino discovers otherwise. The pearl stirs envy in the
villagers, and that night Kino is attacked in his hut by a thief. The
following day, he tries to sell the pearl to buyers in town, but he is
offered only a small amount of money for it. The buyers all work for
the same man. They know the pearl is worth a fortune but hope to buy
it cheaply by pretending that it is worth little.
Kino says he will sell his pearl in the capital city, where he
believes he will get a fair price. This amazes the villagers because
Kino has never traveled so far. After dark that evening, Kino is
attacked again. Juana is sure the pearl is evil and will destroy the
family. During the night, she quietly removes it from the spot where
Kino has hidden it and tries to throw it back into the ocean. He stops
her before she succeeds and beats her for trying. As he returns to the
hut, Kino is attacked again, this time by two men. He kills one of
them, and the other escapes.
Because of the killing, Kino knows that he will be hunted as a
murderer. As a result, he and Juana must leave the village the next
morning. However, before they can escape their canoe is destroyed and
their hut is burned. They hide until the next night in the hut of
Kino’s brother, Juan Tomas. The following evening, Kino and Juana
begin their journey to the capital. Soon they realize they are being
followed by three people, so they flee up the mountain and hide in a
small cave. Their followers set camp in a clearing just below the
cave. Kino decides the only way to survive is for him to kill the
person on guard, take his rifle, and kill the other two, who are
Kino goes to the followers’ camp and is about to attack them
when his son Coyotito cries out. Kino knows that he must act
immediately upon his enemies, but he is a second too late and one of
them shoots toward the cave. There is a struggle and Kino kills all
three of his enemies. The earlier shot has killed Coyotito. The
following afternoon the villagers witness the return of Kino and
Juana, carrying the rifle and their dead child. Without a word to
anyone, they walk through the village to the shore. Kino lays down the
rifle, takes out the pearl, and throws it into the sea.
It is difficult to get to know the characters in The Pearl in
the same way you might get to know the characters in other novels.
They say very little, and you see them in few situations. Their
actions seem to be based more on ancient habits than on free choice.
Like in one of his other books that I have reed, Of Mice and Men, the
characters were not developed thoroughly and stood as more of symbols
than actual characters in the story. However, the strong symbolization
made by the pearl is a great asset to the story. The pearl in the
story has a strong allegorical message to the reader about human
greed. Kino becomes a symbol of the poor but happy man who is
destroyed when he becomes obsessed with his wantings of the material
world. The pearl that was supposed to bring him happiness and
contentment brings him only death and destruction. At the end of the,
both Kino’s dream and his son are dead.