The Pearl Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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What are three examples of repetition in the first four chapters of The Pearl?

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Critic Todd M. Lieber describes Steinbeck's talent as one that

"penetrate[s] to the sources of human thought and behavior and present in the form of some objective correlative the archetypal and mythopoeic knowledge that lies deep in the mystery of human experience."

The objective correlative in The Pearl, is, of course, the Pearl of the World. Throughout the narrative, John Steinbeck employs repetition since human thought and behavior certainly involve much repetition.

1. One such behavior that is often repeated is singing, the vocal release of emotion. Steinbeck writes that

Kino's people had sung of everything that happened or existed.

In Chapter I Kino hears "the Song of the Family" from behind him as he squats outside the door to his home.  Later, a new song comes to him, "the Song of Evil," music of the enemy, also referred to as "the Song of the Enemy." In Chapter III, the music of the pearl that Kino discovers "rises like a chorus of trumpets in his ear":

And the music of the pearl had merged with the music of the family so that one beautified the other.

Yet, as Kino imagines what the discovery of this Pearl of the World can do for his son, the "melody of the morning, the music of evil, of the enemy" enters his head. And, Kino becomes suspicious of his neighbors. Then, again when he takes his pearl to the dealers in order to sell it, Kino still hears "in his ears the evil music." Having become angered at the pearl dealers, Kino takes the pearl home, buries it, and talks with his brother, Juan Thomas; yet, after his brother is gone, Kino once more hears "the dark music of the enemy."

2. Other repeated behaviors are those of Juana. For, she uses her shawl to cover the baby to protect him after he is bitten in Chapter I; then, in Chapter II, after the neighbors learn of Kino's finding of the great pearl, she 

cover[s] her face so that her excitement could not be seen.

Later, she "loops her shawl under the baby" so that he can hang from her hip. When the doctor appears, Juana "covered the baby's face with the fringe of her shawl" and holds him tightly as the doctor holds out his hands. After the doctor intimates that Coyotito will become ill from the scorpion bite, Juana holds him "under her shawl," staring at it with anxiety and fear."  After the doctor leaves, she cradles the baby in her shawl rather than putting him in her bed. And, when an intruder comes to steal the pearl, and Kino is wounded on the forehead, she dips her shawl in water, as she "swabbed the blood from his forehead." Clearly, Juana's shawl is an extension of herself, representing her protectiveness and simplicity in her repeated simple gestures.

3. There are repeated allusions to the social disparities among Kino and his family along with the other peasants and the doctor and the pearl buyers who

...were of a race which for nearly four hundred years had beaten and starved and robbed and despised Kino's race, and frightened it too....

In Chapter I, Kino is locked out by the doctor's gate.  With the pearl in his possession, in Chapter III he imagines Coyotito in a"white color and a silk tie" who  

"will make us free because he will know--he will know and through him we will know."

However, the pearl buyers conspire against him and Kino is again reminded of his social class as the pearl symbolizes also their greed. Nevertheless, in Chapter IV, Kino refuses to be exploited, saying, "No one shall take our good fortune from us," when Juana recognizes the evil in greed; he insists that they will have their chance to rise socially.

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