Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Black Pearl is Ramon Salazar’s first-person account of the events of the summer of his sixteenth year. He tells his tale in retrospect from the vantage point of his newfound wisdom and his newly acquired adulthood. Since his sixteenth birthday in July, he has been a partner in his family’s business. In a short time, he has learned to dive for pearls, has discovered an astounding treasure, and has emerged as a local celebrity. In only four months, however, he has also suffered the bullying of Gaspar Ruiz, the attacks of the Manta Diablo, the death of his father in a great storm, the theft of his treasure, threats to his life, and the challenge of becoming the breadwinner of his family. Ramon’s narrative recounts his education into the myths and repressions of his culture, his training in his profession, and his first efforts to construct his own identity and values.

Once a child who smiled at his mother’s tales of the monster Manta Diablo, Ramon now gives an eyewitness account of both the terror and the beauty of the giant sea creature. The symbolism of the Manta Diablo—the largest of the devilfish, the manta ray—is made clear by an old priest’s tale of how the ancient manta was a land animal long ago cast into exile in the sea just as Lucifer, the enemy of humans and God, was cast out of heaven by the Archangel Michael. In his excursions into the realms of the tropical waters that provide his livelihood, Ramon symbolically delves into the mysterious realms of his unconscious being. Indeed, the ocean and its Manta Diablo offer travelers terror and death, but Ramon testifies to his discovery that the ocean and its awesome...

(The entire section is 677 words.)