At a Glance

  • In The Pearl, Kino is a young Mexican-Indian who is content with his life until he discovers the pearl. His discovery of the evil in the world around him leads him to lose his most precious objects, including his son.

  • Juana is Kino’s initially submissive wife who demonstrates a fierce will in the face of threats to her family. At the end, she is Kino’s equal in mourning.

  • The white doctor is corrupted by greed and racism. He treats the Mexicans like animals and only offers medical care for a hefty fee.

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

  • The Pearl Buyer holds a monopoly of the market while using his network of associates to give the illusion of an open and fair marketplace.

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Kino

Kino, a young Mexican-Indian pearl diver at the peak of his physical powers. With black, unruly hair, keen dark eyes, and a coarse, ragged mustache, Kino is lithe and strong, able to gather oysters underwater for a full two minutes without surfacing and to move about, catlike and undetected, in the dark and on rough terrain. Devoted to his wife, Juana, and his infant son, Coyotito, and proud of his position as head of his family and initially content with the traditional life of his ancestors, Kino has dreams and needs that are at first simple. When he seeks treatment for Coyotito’s scorpion bite from the white doctor and is scornfully dismissed, however, anger awakens in him. After he finds a magnificent pearl, he quickly becomes more aware of his people’s powerlessness and ignorance as he encounters contempt, deceit, greed, and brutality in the bigger world where he goes to sell his glorious treasure. As the threats to his pearl and his family’s safety become more pressing, Kino’s serenity and innocence are replaced by rage, fear, cunning, and the instinct to kill. In the end, having murdered four men and lost his hut, his beloved inherited canoe, and, above all, his precious infant son, a stone-hearted Kino hurls the malignant pearl back into the sea.

Juana

Juana, Kino’s young wife, who dresses simply, out of necessity, wearing a ragged blue skirt, carrying her son slung in her shawl, and tying her dark braids with faded green ribbons. A wedding outfit, folded away, awaits better days. A silent young woman with watchful dark eyes, Juana is self-effacing and submissive to Kino, giving herself over to caring skillfully for her husband and son. A pragmatist, she prays for protection both to traditional gods and to the Christian God of the powerful Catholic Church. She is manifestly the source of Kino’s early contentment with his life, despite its poverty; indeed, his first desire when he finds the pearl is that they should be legally married in the church to confirm their strong union. When threats to her family arise, Juana reveals an iron will and a perceptiveness that her husband lacks. In the face of Kino’s reluctance, Juana insists on fetching the white doctor to tend Coyotito; in the face of Kino’s grand dreams of new possessions and an education for Coyotito, Juana soon recognizes that the pearl will bring only catastrophe, and she urges Kino to throw it back into the sea. In the face of Kino’s fierce determination, Juana dares to creep from the hut and try to get rid of the pearl herself. She stoically endures the...

(The entire section is 733 words.)