Is Kino a victim or villain?
When The Pearl is presented as a parable (a simple story that teaches a moral lesson), readers are sometimes led to the conclusion that Kino is a villain in this story. He is corrupted by greed and is punished for wanting too much. He abuses his wife and his power in his quest for wealth. Because of these things, we tend to believe that the moral of the story is that we should be content with what we have. Kino's transformation into an animalistic monster is the final blow. However,
- What is wrong with wanting a better life?
- Isn't Kino a victim of other people's greed?
- Isn't Kino a hero for trying to challenge the unfair rules that are used to oppress him and the people of his village?
- Does Kino fail at selling the pearl and bettering his life because he is a bad person or does he fail because the rules are rigged against him?
I would argue that Kino is actually not a villain but rather a victim. Steinbeck's writing shows that Steinbeck admires the ambition of those on the lowest rungs of the social ladder. We could argue that Kino is only violent in self-defense and for the preservation of his family.