In the story, Kino's 'Pearl of the World' was to have been the means by which Coyotito would lift his family out of poverty and degradation; the pearl was to have purchased an education for Coyotito. Instead, Coyotito's death changes everything for his parents.
Kino and Juana are initially jubilant when they realize what the pearl could mean for them. Kino dreams about marrying Juana, owning a new harpoon and rifle, and best of all, sending Coyotito to school, where he will learn how to read, write, and work with numbers. However, his neighbors and acquaintances also have new plans for his unexpected windfall. The doctor who initially refuses to treat Coyotito for his scorpion sting suddenly claims the boy as his patient. However, he harbors evil intentions towards Coyotito and his parents. He schemes to get a hold of the pearl, envisioning what a new life filled with riches would bring him. He dreams of the good life, imagining 'himself sitting in a restaurant in Paris and a waiter... opening a bottle of wine.'
Meanwhile, beggars in the village think that Kino will likely be generous with his new-found wealth. The pearl buyers want to get their own hands on the pearl, and even the priest tries to manipulate Kino into remembering his duties to the church. The small family is attacked by henchmen in the night and this worries Juana so much that she tries to cast the pearl back into the ocean. She worries that the pearl is starting to poison every part of their lives. Kino manages to stop her, but he is attacked while still on the shore. He manages to kill his attacker, and the small family find themselves fleeing for their lives.
Kino and his family plan to escape to Lorento, a northern town, but they are hunted down by trackers, intent upon stealing the pearl for themselves. In a shootout, the top of the baby's head is blown off, and Coyotito becomes a casualty of the fatal encounter. Grieved beyond measure, Kino and Juana resolutely walk home to their village, determined to cast the cursed pearl back into the sea. With this fateful action, occasioned by Coyotito's death, the couple will finally obtain a pyrrhic compensation for their sufferings, albeit at the expense of lost hope. Coyotito has secured for his parents freedom from fear, harassment, and physical intimidation at the hands of greedy opportunists, at the cost of his own life.