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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Steinbeck's The Pearl is a parable about the inherent evils of capitalism: the acquisition of wealth. After Kino obtains the great pearl, the potential value of this gem awakens the deadly sin of Greed, "the curious dark residue" in both the colonials and the natives:

All manner of people grew interested in Kino – people with things to sell and people with favors to ask. Kino had found the Pearl of the World. The essence of pearl mixed with essence of men and a curious dark residue was precipitated. Every man suddenly became related to Kino's pearl, and Kino's pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes, the plans, the futures, the wishes, the needs, the lusts, the hungers, of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man's enemy.

As "every man's enemy," Kino finds himself alienated from his own people, divided from his own brother and his wife, resented by the pearl dealers who are determined to keep Kino in his lower caste, hunted by envious thieves.


Before the discovery of the magnificent pearl, Kino happily hears the "family song" that brings feelings of safety, warmth, and wholeness. But, once he finds the Pearl of the World, he tries to sell it so that he can rise above his poverty and procure a better life for his son, Kino finds himself divided from others as a new song, the "Song of Evil." the "music of the enemy," enters his life.

  • When the doctor learns that Kino has a pearl with which to pay for treatment for his baby, who has been bitten by the scorpion, he comes to exploit Kino by giving Coyotito something to prolong his sickness.
  • The priest appears to ask for contributions to the church
  • Kino's neighbors perceive him as another man, no longer one of them. "From now on they would watch Kino and Juana very closely to see whether riches turned their heads, as riches turned all people's heads."
  • Kino, thus, becomes detached from his own culture and afraid when he leaves his home, having "lost the old world." He has broken "walls" and stepped out of "known and trusted patterns."
  • He becomes divided from Juana because she perceives the evil in the pearl and wants him to throw it back into the sea.
  • Kino is divided from his brother after he is attacked and kills the man. Juan Tomas tells Kino, "There is a devil in this pearl. You should have sold it and passed on the devil."


  • Kino becomes greatly angered by his treatment at the hands of the pearl dealers in the city. He knows that they want to cheat him, and he wishes he could do something in retaliation. He departs in great anger wishing to do harm upon them.
  • When thieves come in the night, Kino steps out to fight them and is wounded and mauled as they torn his clothing in their efforts to find the pearl.
  • After this incident, Juana tries to throw the pearl back, but Kino arrests her in her attempt, catching her arm in time. "He struck her in the face with his clenched fist...and he kicked her in the side....he hissed at her like a snake.
  • He asserts repeatedly, "I am a man." Steinbeck explains that this means, "he was half insane and half god....It meant that he would drive his strength against a mountain and plunge his strength against the sea."
  • Kino is attacked in the dark and kills a man.
  • Trackers come to steal the pearl. When they hear Coyotito cry, the think it may be coyotes and their pups; one man shoots and kills the baby.

Because of his greed and desire to improve his social position and have a better life for his son, Kino tragically alienates himself from his society, he sacrifices his integrity in killing men over the pearl, and he loses his married happiness and the life of his son.