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.
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.