Identify a subplot within the main plot in The PearlThe Pearl by John Steinbeck

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In John Steinbeck's The Pearl, the main plot revolves around the capture of the great pearl by Kino who seeks a way to pay a doctor to treat his baby who has been bitten by a scorpion.  For, the doctor,

of a race which for nearly four hundred years had beaten and starved and robbed and despised Kino's race... 

refuses him.  So, when Kino works, he dives deeply and discovers a solitary oyster, finding within it a large and perfect pearl.  So wonderful is this pearl that Kino sees in its surface "dream forms." But, Kino encounters problems with his new discovery as people become envious of his prize. 

When Kino tries to sell his pearl, a subplot is formed which treats the underlying motif of race conflict.  Kino, a peasant, must try to sell his Pearl of the World to the pearl dealers. But, they are of another class, one that holds themselves superior to the Indian.  When Kino talks with his older brother, Juan Tomas, they recall the priest's sermon about people's stations in life:

...each man and woman is like a soldier sent by God to guard some part of the castle of the Universe.  And some are in the ramparts and some far deep in the darness of the walls. But each one must remain faithful to his post and must not go running about, else the castle is in danger from the assaults of Hell.

Kino enters another part of the castle of the Universe where the pearl buyers wait for him.  All working for the same company, these buyers dissemble and insist that the pearl is flawed and too large for any commercial value.  Incensed, Kino says he will travel to the capital and sell his pearl there.  The dealers have been dishonest with Kino because he is considered an inferior, not one of their race.  When the discouraged Kino returns home, he broods as he realizes,

He had lost one world and had not gained another.

Even if he finds a good doctor for Coyotito,   the class divide will always be present in their lives.