The Pearl Characters

The main characters in The Pearl are Kino, Juana, the white doctor, and the trackers.

  • Kino is a young Mexican-Indian man who is content with his life until he discovers the pearl. His attempts to sell the pearl and economically advance his family result in the death of his infant son.

  • Juana is Kino’s wife. Though initially meek, she displays a fierce desire to protect her family.

  • The white doctor is a corrupt and racist man who refuses to treat Kino's son unless Kino pays a hefty fee.

  • The trackers pursue Kino and his family in hopes of acquiring the pearl.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated October 4, 2023.

Kino

Kino, the central character in The Pearl, is a young indigenous Mexican man who makes his meager living as a pearl diver. He is strong, agile, and skilled in his profession, which requires physical endurance and courage to dive deep into the ocean to find pearls.

Kino's character evolves significantly throughout the story. Initially, he is portrayed as a simple and contented man, living a modest life with his wife and baby son. However, when Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, Kino's protective instincts emerge. He becomes determined to secure a better future for his family, primarily by discovering the great pearl.

But now, by saying what his future was going to be like, he had created it. A plan is a real thing, and things projected are experienced. A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities — never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked. (Chapter 3)

As the story progresses, Kino becomes increasingly ambitious, driven, and willing to take risks. He also stops listening to the wisdom and advice of his family, becoming contemptuous of their urgings for prudence. This is shocking when Kino, formerly portrayed as a loving and gentle husband, beats Juana when she attempts to throw away the pearl. Kino's journey symbolizes the corrupting influence of greed and the destructive power of wealth as he becomes consumed by the pursuit of material gain.

Juana

Juana, Kino's wife, is defined by her unwavering devotion to her family. She is a loving and protective mother who cares deeply for Coyotito's well-being. When Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, Juana's maternal instincts kick in, and she takes immediate action to seek medical help, even when it means confronting the biased and callous doctor.

Throughout the story, Juana is a voice of reason and caution. She often acts as a moral compass for Kino, trying to dissuade him from the dangerous and obsessive pursuit of wealth brought about by the great pearl. Juana remains a steadfast and sympathetic character, offsetting Kino's increasingly obsessive behavior.

All of the time Juana had been trying to rescue something of the old peace, of the time before the pearl. But now it was gone, and there was no retrieving it. And knowing this, she abandoned the past instantly. There was nothing to do but to save themselves. (Chapter 5)

Her willingness to stand by Kino's side and support him in their struggles demonstrates her loyalty and determination. Steinbeck uses Juana to represent the strength of women in the face of adversity and the sacrifices they are willing to make for their loved ones.

Juan Tomás

As the older brother, Juan Tomás understands Kino's situation more than Kino. He is often shown as the voice of reason and caution — a counterweight to Kino's grandiose dreams. Juan Tomás understands the complexities of their society and the dangers of newfound prosperity, and he attempts to protect his brother and his family from these dangers.

Despite his practicality and wisdom, Juan Tomás also represents the limitations of the villagers in their struggle against the oppressive forces of the outside world. He understands their injustices and knows that challenging them is fraught with risks.

We do know that we are cheated from birth to the overcharge on our coffins. But we survive. (Chapter 4)

The Doctor

The unnamed doctor is a wealthy outsider who resides in a comfortable home in La Paz, starkly contrasting with the impoverished villagers he refuses to serve. Despite his privilege, he yearns for a more sophisticated life in Europe.

The doctor's character is defined by selfishness, indifference, and prejudice. He represents the theme of social injustice and discrimination prevalent in the story. When Kino and Juana seek his help for Coyotito, the doctor refuses to treat the child because of their ethnicity and inability to pay his high fees.

Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites for 'little Indians'? I am a doctor, not a veterinary. (Chapter 1)

Later in the story, the doctor's actions become even more morally reprehensible when he poisons Coyotito and orchestrates a plot to steal the pearl. These acts underscore the doctor's immoral nature and willingness to harm innocent individuals for personal gain.

In these ways, the doctor portrays the corrupting influence of wealth and privilege. He highlights the stark contrast between the wealthy elite and the struggling indigenous population, emphasizing the moral decay that can occur when individuals prioritize their interests above the well-being of others.

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