What inference can you draw from the pearl buyers appearing as a group, with only one physically described?The Pearl by John Steinbeck

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a socialist, John Steinbeck was very concerned with class struggles; and, Kino's encounter with the pearl buyers is most illustrative of the oppression of the wealthy.  Described much as a corporation is today, "there was only one pearl buyer with many hands," so the representative who talks with Kino is not the real buyer, but merely his representative.  With this monopoly on pearl buying, Kino must go to perhaps to the capital city in order to find another offer.  For, the representatives are in collusion with one another, each saying that the Pearl of the World is merely a curiosity, valueless because it is too large.  But, when Kino snatches back the pearl in anger, they know that they have "played too hard."

While the town of LaPaz is fictionalized, the practice of the one pearl buyer "with many hands" is characteristic of the power of monopolies that easily manipulate and subjugate people.  Kino has no choice but to deal with the representatives as long as he is in LaPaz.  This is why he declares that he will go to the capital in Chapter IV of The Pearl.