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John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in
His novels deal with the social and economic
problems of rural workers.
His best novels include Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and
Men, and The Grapes of Wrath.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in
Kino is a young Mexican-Indian pearl diver
married to Juana; they have a baby named
Coyotito. Kino, Juana, and their son live in a
modest house by the sea. One morning, a
scorpion stings Coyotito. Because they know that
the doctor will not come to such a poor home,
Juana tells Kino to take the child to the doctor.
Kino and Juana rush him to the doctor in town.
Juana, carrying Coyotito and followed by
Kino and the neighbors, goes to the town in a
large procession. At the doctor's house, the
doctor's servant tells Kino and Juana that the
doctor is not at home — in truth, the doctor is
home but will not help them because they are
poor natives who cannot pay enough and also
because the doctor is prejudiced against Kino's
Later that same morning, Kino and Juana
take their family canoe out to the sea to go
diving for pearls. Juana makes a poultice for
Coyotito’s wound, while Kino searches the sea
bottom. Juana’s prayers for a large pearl are
answered when Kino surfaces with the largest
pearl either of them has ever seen.
Before Kino reaches home with his great
pearl, the news of his discovery has already
reached his village and the town. Everyone
fantasizes what he or she would do with the
wealth that the pearl represents, including the
doctor, who previously refused to help Coyotito
but now says that the baby is a patient of his.
The priest arrives at Kino and Juana's hut and
tells Kino that he needs to give thanks for
finding the pearl.
The doctor arrives, explaining that he was
out in the morning but has come now to cure
Coyotito. He administers a powdered capsule
and promises to return in an hour. In fact
what the doctor has done is to make Coyotito
sick so that the doctor can then cure the baby
and get paid more. Coyotito indeed does get
sick, and the doctor returns and gives the
baby a different medicine that "cures" the
baby. When the doctor asks Kino for payment,
Kino says that his plan is to sell the pearl the
next day. The doctor offers to keep the pearl
for Kino, and Kino refuses the request, but the
doctor tricks Kino into revealing where Kino
has hidden the pearl.
At bedtime, Kino hides the pearl under his mat
on the earthen floor. His dreams of Coyotito's
reading great books, however, are suddenly
interrupted by the presence of someone else in
the hut. Pulling his knife, Kino strikes out at the
figure, hurting him. At the same time he himself is
struck on the head. Juana lights their only candle
and swabs the blood from Kino's head. Juana
then senses the evil of the pearl, and she pleads,
"This pearl is like a sin! It will destroy us. . . . Let us
throw it back into the sea . . ." Kino, however, is
determined that their son will become educated,
and he refuses to listen to Juana's pleas that the
pearl will destroy them all — "even our son."
On the morning that Kino is to sell the pearl,
the other divers do not go out to dive; this is to be
a special day in the life of the town. Kino and
Juana dress themselves and Coyotito in their best
clothes and begin the trip to the pearl buyers,
followed by all of the rest of the village. Here, we
have the second of several processional scenes.
Yesterday, they walked in the same procession to
see the doctor, and they were turned away. Today,
they go in a triumphant mood, fully aware of the
treasure they have that will bring them wealth and
Juan Tomás, Kino’s brother, walks beside Kino
and reminds him of the old story of how years ago
the "old ones" thought of a way to outwit the pearl
buyers by sending one of their own to the large
town to sell their collected pearls. The first man
failed to return; they sent another with their
collected pearls and he too failed to return. They
then abandoned the idea and returned to selling
their pearls to the pearl buyers. Kino, of course, has
heard the story already; the priest, the Father, tells it
every year. According to the priest, the failure was "a
punishment on those who tried to leave their
station." The priest made it clear that God intends
the peons to remain in their stations in life, and if
someone tries to rise above their station, it is an
invitation for disaster.
The news of Kino's arrival in town has already
reached the pearl buyers, along with reports on the
loveliness of the pearl. When Kino arrives with the
pearl, his neighbors wait just within hearing distance,
outside the office. The pearl buyer looks casually at the
pearl and shows no expression on his face, yet his
hands, hidden behind him, are trembling. Then the
buyer offers a very small sum, a thousand pesos, for the
Pearl of the World. He maintains that the pearl is too big
and no one will buy it. Kino knows that he is being
cheated; meanwhile, the pearl buyer sends for the other
buyers to confirm his offer. While they are waiting for
the other buyers, the neighbors discuss the offer. They
are puzzled; in contrast, the pearl buyer cannot keep his
eyes off the pearl.
When the other three pearl buyers arrive, they carry
through with their pre-arranged, assigned roles. The first
two dealers reject the pearl as a mere oddity, and the third
dealer makes a feeble offer of five hundred pesos. Kino
announces that he will go to the capital and sell the pearl.
Quickly, the main pearl buyer raises his offer to fifteen
hundred pesos, but it is too late; Kino leaves.
Back in their brush houses, the neighbors discuss the
events. They are divided in their opinions: some feel that
Kino is being cheated; some feel that he is going against
the system, and some think that he is foolish because
fifteen hundred pesos is more money than he has ever
had. Kino, however, feels alienated from everything:
according to Steinbeck, Kino "has lost one world and had
not gained another."
That night Kino hears some noises outside. He
takes his knife and goes to investigate. Inside,
Juana hears the noises of a violent struggle, and
she takes a stone and goes to Kino's aid, but it is
too late. Kino is lying on the ground, bloody, with
most of his clothes half-torn off him. His
assailants have escaped, and Kino cannot identify
them. Again, Juana pleads with Kino to destroy
the pearl — it is wicked. But Kino still sees the
pearl as the only means of insuring Coyotito's
education, and so he resolves to go to the capital
to sell the pearl.
Everything evil that happens to Kino is directly
related to the Pearl of the World, and Juana knows
this. She silently rises from her sleep, goes quietly to
the fireplace stone and removes the great pearl. Then,
she disappears through the doorway. A rage surges in
Kino, and he catches up with her at the beach just at
the moment that her hand is raised to throw the pearl
back into the Gulf. Kino strikes her. Already, there is a
major change occurring within Kino; he is becoming
more and more like an animal — even in his
treatment of Juana who, because of her upbringing,
accepts such treatment. She knows that there is
murder in the heart of her husband, and she accepts
it without understanding it.
As Kino makes his way up the beach, a group of men
attack him. As Kino drives his knife into one of his
attackers, the men knock the pearl from his grasp.
Meanwhile, some distance away from the fight, Juana
gets up on her knees and begins to make her way home.
She sees the pearl lying in the path. She picks it up and
considers returning to the sea to discard the pearl once
and for all.
At this moment, Juana sees two dark figures lying in
the road and recognizes one of them as Kino. Juana
realizes that Kino has killed a man. Juana helps Kino,
who moans about losing his pearl. Juana silences him
by showing him the pearl and explains that they must
flee immediately because Kino has committed a horrible
crime. Kino protests that he acted in self-defense, but
Juana argues that his defense won’t matter at all to the
authorities. Kino realizes that Juana is right, and they
resolve to flee.
Kino returns to the beach to ready his canoe for the escape.
He finds that someone has punched a large hole in the boat’s
bottom. Filled with sorrow and rage, he quickly runs to his
house, moments before dawn. As he arrives in the vicinity of the
neighborhood, he notices flames and realizes that his house is
burning. As he runs toward the fire, Juana meets him with
Coyotito in her arms. She confirms that their house has been
burned down completely. As the neighbors rush to control the
fire and to save their own houses, Kino, Juana, and Coyotito go
to Juan Tomás’s house.
In the darkness inside Juan Tomás’s house, Kino and Juana
listen as the neighbors attempt to subdue the fire and speculate
that Kino and Juana have been killed in the blaze. The couple can
only listen as Juan Tomás’s wife, Apolonia, wails in mourning for
the loss of her relatives. When Apolonia returns to her house to
change head shawls, Kino whispers to her, explaining that they
are taking refuge. Kino instructs Apolonia to bring Juan Tomás to
them and to keep their whereabouts a secret. She complies, and
Juan Tomás arrives moments later, posting Apolonia at the door
to keep watch while he talks with Kino.
Kino explains that he killed a man after being attacked
in the darkness. Juan Tomás blames this misfortune on the
pearl and advises Kino to sell it without delay. Kino
implores Juan Tomás to hide them in his house for a night,
until they can gather themselves and make a second
attempt to flee. Juan Tomás agrees to shelter them and
keep silent about their plans.
That afternoon, Kino and Juana listen to the
neighbors discuss them among the ashes outside. Most of
the neighbors assume that Kino and Juana are dead, but
Juan Tomás suggests that perhaps the family has fled to
the south to escape persecution.
Kino tells Juan Tomás his plan to travel to the cities of
the north. Juan Tomás advises him to avoid the coast, as a
search party will be on the lookout for him. When Juan
Tomás asks if Kino still has the pearl, Kino responds that he
does and that he intends to hold on to it.
Kino, Juana, and Coyotito begin their long
march north, They walk all night and make camp
in a roadside shelter at sunrise.
Juana begins to doubt Kino’s conviction that
the pearl is worth far more than the dealers
offered, but Kino points out that his attackers
would not have tried to steal the pearl were it
worth nothing. Kino stares at the pearl to read
his future. He lies to Juana, telling her that he
sees a rifle, a marriage in a church, and an
education for Coyotito. In truth Kino sees a body
bleeding on the ground, Juana making her way
home through the night after being beaten, and
Coyotito’s face swollen as though he were sick.
As Juana plays with Coyotito, Kino wakes from a
dream and demands that they keep quiet. Creeping
forward, he spots three trackers following their
trail. Kino attempts to be still and silent until the
trackers have passed. He watches them grow
nearer and prepares to spring on them with his
knife if necessary. Juana also hears the approaching
trackers and does her best to quiet Coyotito.
The trackers’ horse grows excited as the
trackers approach the shelter. The trackers then
move on. Kino realizes that it is only a matter of
time before they return, and he runs quickly to
Juana, telling her to gather up her things so that
they can leave at once. He suggests that they might
be able to lose the trackers up in the mountains.
Kino and Juana collect their belongings and flee
with Coyotito through the bushes, making no effort to
conceal their tracks. As they climb the first rises, Kino
realizes that the distance he is putting between his
family and the trackers offers only a temporary fix to
their problem. When Juana takes a rest with Coyotito,
Kino proposes that she hide while he moves on
ahead. Until the trackers have been diverted, she can
take refuge in a nearby town. But, despite Kino’s
insistence, Juana refuses to split up, so the family
moves on together.
As the sun begins to set, Kino and Juana reach a
nearby cleft at a pool and stream, where they drink.
From the lookout, Kino spies the trackers at a distance
below, hurrying up the slope. Juana also realizes that
they are still being followed.
By evening, the trackers arrive at the pool, where they
make camp and eat. In the cave, Coyotito grows restless,
and Juana quiets him. Kino notices that two of the men
have settled in to sleep, while the third keeps watch. Kino
realizes that if he can manage to stifle the lookout, he,
Juana, and Coyotito will have a chance to escape. Juana
fears for Kino’s life, but Kino explains that they have no
As Juana prays for him, Kino slowly moves down the
slope toward the pool. He prepares to attack. Just as he is
poised to spring, the moon appears, and he realizes that
his opportunity has been lost.
Suddenly, Coyotito lets out a cry that wakes one of
the sleeping trackers. The watchman shoots in the
direction of the cry. The bullet kills Coyotito. Kino springs
upon the trackers, stabbing the watchman and seizing the
rifle to kill the other two. Then he hears his wife’s cry,
mourning the death of Coyotito.
Later the next day, toward sunset, Kino and Juana
walk side by side into La Paz, with Juana carrying
Coyotito’s corpse in a sack over her shoulder. They
walk through the city, with unmoving eyes, speaking
to no one. Onlookers stare wordlessly, and even Juan
Tomás can only raise a hand in greeting.
Kino and Juana march through the town, past the
brush houses, all the way to the sea. At the edge of
the water, Kino stops and pulls the pearl from his
pocket. Holding it up to the light, he stares into it
carefully, and a flood of evil memories washes over
him. Kino holds the pearl out in front of him, and
then flings it out into the ocean. Kino and Juana
watch the pearl as it splashes the surface, and stare
at the spot quietly as the sun sets.
• Kino, Juana, and their son Coyotito live in a modest house by
• A scorpion stings the baby. Juana tells Kino to take the child to
• Kino and Juana rush him to the doctor in town, but the doctor
does not meet them.
• Kino finds a pearl that is as large as a seagull’s egg.
• The priest and the doctor visit Kino.
• Kino decides to sell the pearl to educate his son.
• Kino is attacked by strangers.
• Kino goes to the town to sell the pearl.
• Kino fails in selling the pearl because the buyers offer a very
• Juana believes that the pearl is the source of all bad things that
is happening to them and takes it to throw it in the sea.
• Kino strikes Juana and takes the pearl.
• In his way back to his house, he is attacked again and he kills a
• Kino’s canoe is destroyed and his house burned.
• Kino, Juana and Coyotito hide in Juan Tomás’s house before they
set out for the capital.
• Kino discovers that three trackers are following them.
• Kino attacks the trackers and kills them, but one of them shoots
when coyotito cries and kills him.
• The next day, Kino and Juana make their way back through
town. Juana carries her dead son over her shoulder. They walk
all the way to the sea. At the shore, Kino pulls the pearl out of
his clothing and with all his might flings it back into the sea.
The story takes place mainly in a small village
The time is the nineteenth or early twentieth
Kino is the story’s protagonist. He is a simple poor pearl
diver. He is close to nature and lives in harmony with it.
He loves his family, his village, and his people. At the
beginning, Kino is content with his life. Before he
discovers the pearl, his simple life is rich with the values
of love and loyalty. After he finds the pearl, Kino begins
to desire material wealth and his character gradually
declines from a state of innocence to a state of
corruption. He gets into conflict with the corrupt world of
the doctor, the priest, and the pearl buyers. The pearl
changes his life as it changes his character. Kino’s
character is enlarged as a result of the discovery of the
world of evil and greed.
Juana is Kino’s loving and obedient wife. She
represents the typical submissive wife who takes
care of her husband and son. She accepts the
traditional role of woman as man’s helpmate.
Juana refuses to leave her husband even after he
killed a man and their house was burned. She
stays with Kino out of loyalty and love after he
beats her for trying to throw away the pearl. She
also refuses to leave Kino when they are running
away from the followers who tried to find and kill
Juana is a brave woman who decides to stay
with her husband in time of danger. When her
husband is attacked several times, Juana never
Juana is resourceful and has the presence of
mind that makes her jump to her son’s help
when he is stung by the scorpion. Whereas her
husband remains confounded and unable to act,
she is quick to suck the poison from Coyotito’s
shoulder. Juana then uses a poultice of seaweed
to treat him.
Juana is a rebel. In the face of Kino’s reluctance,
Juana insists on fetching the white doctor to tend
Coyotito. Her decision to go to the doctor is so
subversive that all the villagers follow the young
couple and son to see how the doctor will receive
them. She differs with Kino with regard to the
pearl. Whereas Kino sees it as a means of changing
the family’s fortunes, Juana sees it as a source of
evil and wants to get rid of it. In spite of her
devotion to her husband, she rebels against his
authority when she attempts to throw the pearl
back into the sea to save her family. At the end,
when Kino gives her the pearl to throw into the sea,
she hands it to him, in admission of his manhood
and personal dignity.
Juana changes by suffering. At the end of
the novel, Juana walks beside Kino as an equal.
She becomes stronger and less submissive.
The shared experience of suffering has made
the couple closer and equal.
The doctor is an important character because he
represents the white people who oppress and
exploit Kino’s people, the native Mexicans. He
hates Kino’s people because they are of a
different race. He refuses to meet Kino to treat
his baby because he knows that they don’t have
enough money. When he knows about Kino’s
pearl, he visits him to claim the baby as his
As Kino seeks to gain wealth through the
pearl, he transforms from a happy,
contented husband and father to a savage
criminal. He beats his wife because she
wants to get rid of the pearl to save the
family, and he even kills a man, in defense of
the pearl. Furthermore, Kino’s greed leads
to his son’s death. Greed is the main
characteristic of other characters in the
novella especially the doctor, the priest, and
the pearl buyers.
The doctor, the pearl buyers, and the priest are not
the same race as Kino and the villagers. They treat
the poor villagers as inferior and take advantage of
them. The villagers ‘ lack of education also makes
the villagers vulnerable to exploitation. The doctor
refuses to meet Kino and his family because they
are poor and because he hates their race. The
priest uses religion to try to convince the villagers
not to try to change their position in life because
this would be against God’s will. The pearl buyers
cheat the villagers and offer them very little money
for their pearls.
The pearl itself is the most important symbol in the novel.
The pearl’s meaning changes at different times of the novel
and for different people. At the beginning, the pearl is a
symbol of beauty. Everybody admires it, and everybody
sees it as a perfect object of natural beauty. But it also has
material value. For everybody, the pearl becomes a symbol
of financial worth. Kino wants to sell it to get the money
for his son’s education. The pearl becomes a symbol of
hope, the hope of a better future. But what actually
happens is all types of bad things. A series of disasters
happen to Kino and his family. Kino is attacked several
times, his relationship with his wife suffers, their house is
burned and Kino’s canoe is destroyed. The pearl becomes a
destruction, which was clear for Juana before Kino
came to believe her, only after the final
catastrophe happens to them, when their only
baby Cyotito is killed.
The scorpion is a symbol of evil. The scorpion’s
poison which spreads in the baby’s body parallels
the spread of another kind of poison, the poison
of evil that spreads among people of the
community. When Kino discovers the pearl,
everybody becomes interested in getting his share
of the find. People don’t see the pearl as Kino’s, it
is everybody’s pearl. Greed and envy are the
social poison that spreads everywhere and kills
people’s souls, in the same way as the scorpion’s
poison kills bodies.
The canoe is a symbol of tradition. Kino’s canoe is
a family heritage, he got it from his father and his
father got it from his father. The pearl makes
people become less content with their simple
lifestyle and more interested in material
possessions. The old traditional values of simple
life give way to a new craving of material gain.
The canoe’s destruction becomes thus a symbol
of the destruction of a way of living and the
emergence of a new one.