Chapter 4 Summary

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The village town of La Paz is teeming with quiet excitement and anxious curiosity. The inhabitants are eager to see how Kino and Juana fare after the sale of their pearl. No one leaves for work. The pearl divers do not head to the shore to seek the day’s fortune. Instead, they all stay to be present for this event. They plan to follow the couple so they can witness firsthand the outcome of Kino’s great day.

The pearl buyers greet the day with anticipation. Each hopes to have the opportunity to buy the pearl. Of course, each calculates the best means of swindling Kino. They are all employed by one powerful, unscrupulous, and closefisted buyer. Consequently, these smaller buyers understand that Kino must not be offered a fair price under any circumstances.

Kino and Juana awaken with renewed enthusiasm. The disquieting concerns from the night before have passed and they are both in good humor as they prepare for the day. Juana and Coyotito wear their finest clothes. Even Kino has taken care that his clothes, which are worn from work and wear, are clean and well-arranged. Once they are properly dressed, the family begins the trip into town to sell their pearl.

Kino is accompanied by his brother, Juan Tomas, who warns him to be careful with the pearl buyers. He encourages Kino to ask for a fair price, although neither he nor Kino knows the pearl’s actual value. To emphasize the necessity for extreme caution when dealing with the pearl buyers, he reminds Kino of the villagers' former efforts to sell their pearls for fair prices.

Many years ago, the villagers were so concerned about the prices they were given locally for their pearls that they hired a seller to take all of their pearls to a larger city and sell them collectively. He was to subtract his fees from the profits and return the remainder of the money to the villagers. Sadly, the seller took the pearls and never returned to the village. The villagers, refusing to admit defeat, hired another seller, who also absconded with the pearls. Kino informs Juan Tomas that he recalls the tale. He also recalls the priest’s explanation that the loss should serve as an admonition against attempts to rise above one’s station in life. Armed with these reminders, he enters a pearl shop to make his transaction.

The buyer examines Kino’s pearl and then makes an unusual proclamation. He states that the pearl is too large and is, therefore, worthless. He tells Kino that he will offer him “a thousand pesos” for the stone. Kino counters that the pearl must be worth fifty times as much, but the dealer is firm. He says that he will only buy it as an oddity or a freakish collectible. When Kino still refuses, the buyer encourages him to seek additional estimates from the other buyers. Consequently, the buyers collect themselves to offer appraisals of the pearl. In harmony with their conspiracy, they refuse to offer Kino a fair price for his pearl. Indeed, they all assert that his beautiful find is “a monstrosity.” Kino rejects these valuations and refuses to sell his pearl to them. Instead, he says he will offer it for sale elsewhere, perhaps in the capital city.

As Kino exits the shop, his neighbors second guess his decision. Some speculate that he was foolish to reject the offer because he is so poor. Others defend his decision, suspecting that the pearl buyers conspired to cheat him as they have most likely cheated others before him.

Kino returns home in frustration. He discusses the matter with Juan Tomas. Although Juan Tomas acknowledges that the pearl buyers attempted to cheat Kino, he warns against rebellion. Echoing the sentiments of the priest, he suggests that Kino’s actions are so unusual that he may be in danger. Furthermore, he advises Kino to be particularly careful on his journey to the capital, where he will meet only strangers and will have to act without the relative protection of his family and friends. He informs Kino that he fears for him, especially if the pearl is indeed one of great value.

After Juan Tomas leaves, Kino sits in silent reflection. As deliberates, he becomes aware of movement outside of his hut. He goes outside to investigate the suspicious sounds and is again attacked. This time, the assailant cuts his face. Juana finds him in a barely conscious state and helps him into their home. She pleads with him again to throw the pearl back into the ocean. She reiterates her belief that it has brought evil into their lives. Kino asserts that he is man enough to defeat those who attempt to take his pearl. To silence her protests, he repeatedly declares, “I am a man.”

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