In The Pearl, what does the Song of the Family mean to Kino?

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gpane's profile pic

gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Song of the Family means everything to Kino. His family are his whole world, his whole life. This is made quite clear in the very first chapter, when in the early morning he relaxes watching Juanita tending their baby Coyotito and singing a song which forms part of the Song of the Family.

Sometimes it rose to an aching chord that caught the throat, saying this is safety, this is warmth, this is the Whole. (chapter 1)

At this stage, the family are content and happy in their small home, happy just to be together, and so the song at this point represents security and comfort. This is just before the scorpion stings Coyotito, introducing a note of evil and discord into Kino's small world, threatening everything that he lives for and setting into motion a chain of events that ultimately results in catastrophe for the family and Coyotito's death. 

The Song of the Family changes as the family situation develops. To begin with, as seen in the quote above, it is gentle, lilting, soothing. However, by the end of the story when the family have lost everything and have been driven from their home, it becomes wild and desperate, 'fierce and sharp and feline as the snarl of a female puma' (chapter 6). This description conjures up an effective image of the family as a cornered animal fighting for its very survival.

teachsuccess's profile pic

teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Kino views the Song of the Family as a strength and an inspiration. Essentially, the Song of the Family incorporates generations of memories inherited from Kino's forebears. To Kino, the Song of the Family represents safety, wholeness, and warmth. It is the very essence of life to him.

The Song of the Family also warns against the "savage" and "dangerous melody" of the Song of Evil; it cries in sorrowful warning before the scorpion bites Coyotito, and it is sung while the baby fights the effects of the scorpion's poison. More than anything, the Song of the Family is a song of hope to Kino. As he fills his basket with oysters, he imagines that the Song of the Pearl That Might Be is embedded as a "sweet and secret and clinging" counter-melody within the Song of the Family.

Immediately after he finds the priceless pearl, the Song of the Family plays in Kino's ear. It reminds him that a great future is in his grasp, but he must be careful to avoid the wrath of the gods against a man who chooses to be successful through his own efforts.

In Chapter Six, as Kino creeps up to the trackers, the Song of the Family is as "fierce and sharp and feline as the snarl of a female puma." It has become a war-song of sorts, propelling Kino towards a desperate battle for the life of his besieged family. Then, after Coyotito's terrible death, the Song of the Family leads another call to battle for Kino. This time, its unrelenting rhythm guides him to the edge of the water, where he will throw the pearl back into the sea.

So, in the story, the Song of the Family represents many things to Kino. It is simultaneously a song of hope, peace, warmth, and wholeness to him. It can likewise serve as a song of warning as well as a song of gentle wisdom. Essentially, as the text tells us, the song incorporates the complete human experience, and it embodies all the hopes and fears of those who live by it.

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