What does Kino say will make him free in John Steinbeck's The Pearl?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Kino finds the Pearl of the World in The Pearl, by John Steinbeck, everything in the life of his little family changes. This pearl is the source of many things: , provision, jealousy, hope, hostility, dreams, and violence.

In chapter three, Kino says the first thing he wants to do with the money he will get from selling his great pearl is marry Juana, something unheard of among his village because of the cost. It is a grand wish. The second thing Kino says he will do is buy a rifle, a dream beyond anything the villagers can imagine. Kino actually sees these things happening in his head, a kind of vision of the future. 

And then he tells his fellow villagers the third thing he will do with the money from the pearl: his son will get an education, and Coyotito's education which he will share with his parents is the thing that will make Kino and his family free.

"My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will make numbers, and these things will make us free because he will know--he will know and through him we will know."

In his vision for this freedom, he sees Coyotito reading to his parents by the fire in their little brush hut.

"This is what the pearl will do," said Kino. And he had never said so many words together in his life. And suddenly he was afraid of his talking. His hand closed down over the pearl and cut the light away from it. Kino was afraid as a man is afraid who says, "I will," without knowing.

Kino is right to be afraid, for this dream will never come true. Too many people, even people who are closest to him, are moved to do evil out of their greed and jealousy. Coyotito does not get an education, but Juana and Kino get a different kind of freedom when, in the end, they return the pearl to the sea.