Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Kino, a young Mexican-Indian pearl diver at the peak of his physical powers. With black, unruly hair, keen dark eyes, and a coarse, ragged mustache, Kino is lithe and strong, able to gather oysters underwater for a full two minutes without surfacing and to move about, catlike and undetected, in the dark and on rough terrain. Devoted to his wife, Juana, and his infant son, Coyotito, and proud of his position as head of his family and initially content with the traditional life of his ancestors, Kino has dreams and needs that are at first simple. When he seeks treatment for Coyotito’s scorpion bite from the white doctor and is scornfully dismissed, however, anger awakens in him. After he finds a magnificent pearl, he quickly becomes more aware of his people’s powerlessness and ignorance as he encounters contempt, deceit, greed, and brutality in the bigger world where he goes to sell his glorious treasure. As the threats to his pearl and his family’s safety become more pressing, Kino’s serenity and innocence are replaced by rage, fear, cunning, and the instinct to kill. In the end, having murdered four men and lost his hut, his beloved inherited canoe, and, above all, his precious infant son, a stone-hearted Kino hurls the malignant pearl back into the sea.
Juana, Kino’s young wife, who dresses simply, out of necessity, wearing a ragged blue skirt, carrying her son slung in her shawl, and tying her...
(The entire section is 733 words.)
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Themes and Characters
Kino's belief that evil is in the night is not unusual, but one of his many foibles is that he sees himself alone in a world of struggle between good and evil. He does his best to keep good coming his way. In his mind he hears the music of his personal struggle. The Song of the Family hums in his mind when things are as they should be. The waves lapping the shore in the morning and the sound of Juana grinding corn or preparing the meal are part of this song. But when the wind shifts or a representative of the oppressing class nears, then he hears the strains of the Song of Evil, "the music of the enemy, of any foe of the family, a savage, secret, dangerous melody." Kino listens and reacts to these songs. When the scorpion begins to come down the rope toward the baby, he hears the Song of Evil first. However, when the priest enters he is confused despite hearing the song he heard for the scorpion. He has been taught that the priest is good, so he looks elsewhere for the source of evil. This melodic tool, whatever its source, is one of many tools that Kino has in his possession but that he fails to fully utilize.
Juana is more sophisticated yet more esoteric in her view of good and evil. She is the one who prays for protection against actions. She prays the ancient magic and the new Catholic prayers to ward off the scorpion. She does the same when she wishes for a way to pay the doctor. She sees that the pearl is the source of evil and that men are only...
(The entire section is 1139 words.)
Kino's wife, Juana, is even more simple than Kino. Her reactions are those of the instinctual mother, and her life is devoted to her duties to her husband and child. "She could stand fatigue and hunger almost better than Kino himself. In the canoe she was like a strong man." She says Hail Marys and utilizes ancient magic to ward off evil. Her prayers bring the pearl into existence. With the pearl in hand, however, Coyotito is fine. Her thoughts about the pearl thus turn practical. They can be married in the church and have nice clothes, but they do not need to have everything. Realizing that Kino wants everything, she begins to see their possession of the Pearl of the World as a harbinger of evil. She begs Kino to throw it away, even becomes so bold as to attempt it herself. For this, Kino hits her.
She performs her duties and follows Kino. Simple as she is, her mind has awakened to the real danger. Her boy survives the scorpion but they may not survive Kino's pearl. As soon as Kino said he was a man and would do the bidding of the pearl, she went along. "Juana, in her woman's soul, knew ... that the sea would surge while the man drowned in it. And yet it was this thing that made him a man, half insane and half god, and Juana had need of a man; she could not live without a man." She, therefore, silences her doubt. "Sometimes the quality of woman, the reason, the caution, the sense for preservation, could but through Kino's manness and save them all." That...
(The entire section is 295 words.)
The protagonist of the fable is a Mexican-Indian named Kino. He is a primitive character who will fail to benefit from the opportunity chance has afforded him to become enlightened. Kino has been perceived as colonial subject, simpleton, and oppressed man. His people were not always subjugated; at one time, they had control over their destiny, created songs, and lived in peace with their surroundings. But Kino represents his a subsequent generation—one profoundly affected by oppression and exploitation—and when the Doctor comes to him, Kino stands "in the door, filling it, and hatred raged and flamed in back of his eyes, and fear too, for the hundreds of years of subjugation were cut deep in him." Kino is aware of his subjugation but he has no way of dealing with it. He is like a caged animal and exhibits the signs of stress that accompany confinement. Unfortunately, he is not a great man about to lead his people out of the dark.
Kino is an average man in his community with a quiet life diving for pearls that he sells to his colonial overlords. After his son is stung by a scorpion and the doctor refuses to treat him, he goes as usual to the pearl beds hoping that he will find a pearl so magnificent that he will be able to rise in social and economic standing. He discovers the talisman he feels he needs for such a rise in fortune; however, harassment from his oppressor and his own stubbornness foil his ability to take advantage of the Pearl.
(The entire section is 407 words.)
A woman with a big jiggling stomach, Apolonia is the wife of Juan Tomas. She has four children and her family is a little better off than Kino's. She helps them when the robbers burn down the hut. As the nearest female relative to Kino's family she must lead the mourning. Her presence of mind after discovering Kino and Juana are alive, is crucial to their remaining undiscovered.
Coyotito is Kino and Juana's son. When he is stung by a scorpion, the resulting medical emergency prompts the parents to reach beyond their station in life. The mother will not let her only child languish and demands they go to the Doctor. His refusal of admittance leads them to pray for the means—not to heal the child—to gain the Doctor. Their prayers are answered and they have a pearl with which they can buy a better future for the child. However, the death of the baby, whose cries could have been those of a coyote pup, finally ends Kino's fantasy, no rise in future prospects was worth the loss of his baby.
The "lazy" Doctor of the village is a man who thinks only of Europe and dreams, with "eyes rolled up a little in their fat hammocks," of returning there. It is to this colonial Doctor that Kino goes to seek help for his baby However, because his pearls at that time were so poor, the Doctor would not look at the boy of a "little Indian." His attitude towards Kino,...
(The entire section is 993 words.)