The Pearl Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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Can you give three or four examples of irony in The Pearl?

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Tim Mbiti eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the book The Pearl, the most overt instance of irony was Kino’s expectations of good fortune after he discovered the pearl. He envisions a better life for his family, treatment and education for his son, a church wedding, as well as a rifle. Other people in the community are also hopeful that Kino’s pearl will change their circumstances. Conversely, ill luck proceeds that include life-threatening attacks on Kino’s family and ended with the fatal shooting of Kino’s only child. 

Despite common knowledge that Kino was in possession of a very valuable pearl, the pearl buyers decline to buy it and claim it was worth very little.

It is also ironic that prior to Kino’s discovery of the pearl, the doctor wanted nothing to do with the poor couple. He is certain that they could not afford to pay for his services and thus, declined to give them an audience, humiliating them before the villagers. However, when he learns about Kino’s good fortune, he shamelessly brags that Kino’s baby was his patient.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The greatest of ironies in The Pearl is that of situational irony, the discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. Here are examples of this irony of situation:

  • When Kino finds the Pearl of the World, he hears "the music of the pearl" and expects his life to improve tremendously. "We will be married--in the church."
  • Kino and Juana anticipate a great future for their son, who will become educated, but instead he dies.
"My son will read and open the books, and my son will write... and will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know...." 
  • Kino expects to be paid a great sum of money for the pearl, but the agent tells him it is a "mere curiosity."
  • With what the pearl can buy them, Kino and Juana expect to be safe from harm; instead they are hunted.

Dramatic irony, an occurrence in which the reader perceives something that a character does not, exists in the conversation that Kino has with the agent. Here is how it works,

  • Kino does not understand what the dealer's intentions really are when he tells Kino that the pearl is like fool's gold and is too large. However, the reader has seen that he prepares for Kino's visit in his physical appearance, and he has rolled a coin back and forward adroitly. And,

the buyer's eyes had become as steady and cruel and unwinking as a hawk's eyes, while the rest of his face smiled in greeting.

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