Discussion Topic

The significance and examples of animal imagery in The Pearl

Summary:

The significance of animal imagery in The Pearl lies in its ability to reflect the characters' primal instincts and societal positions. Examples include the scorpion that stings Coyotito, symbolizing danger and evil, and the comparison of Kino to a predatory animal, highlighting his increasing aggression and desperation as he seeks to protect his family and the pearl.

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In The Pearl, what are some examples of animal imagery in chapter one?

After little Coyotito is stung by the scorpion, Kino and Juanita take him to the town to seek medical treatment. It's notable that Steinbeck uses animal imagery to highlight the differences between the town and the natural environment where Kino and his family live. That fateful morning had resounded as always to the excited chattering of birds. Out here by the beach, where Kino makes his living, the birds are free as nature intended.

Contrast that with the caged birds, chirping away in the town's secret gardens. The suggestion here is that the town is a place where life is more restricted, less spontaneous than in the natural world. The town is an artificial place where the forces of nature are controlled to serve the interests of man. This is symbolized by both the secret gardens and the cages in which the birds sing. The caged birds also hint at the exploitative attitude towards nature held by the people of the town, including the doctor. This attitude will be starkly illustrated later on by the doctor's attempts to cheat Kino out of a fair price for his valuable pearl.

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In The Pearl, what are some examples of animal imagery in chapter one?

Steinbeck utilizes animal imagery in the first chapter to illustrate Kino's natural environment and foreshadow events. Animal imagery is also used to characterize individuals and groups throughout the story. As was mentioned in the previous post, Steinbeck depicts roosters, pigs, and birds to illustrate the natural setting where Kino and his family live. In the Indian settlement where Kino resides, it is commonplace for goats and dogs to wander around and interact with humans. The indigenous people are associated with the wilderness, nature, and innocence. Steinbeck also uses animal imagery to symbolize Kino's plight. In the first chapter, Kino watches as a dusty ant frantically attempts to escape from a trap that an ant lion had dug. The dusty ant's tragic situation reflects and foreshadows Kino's struggle to escape from the oppressive Spaniards. Kino and the other Indians are also viewed and treated like animals by the ruling Spaniards. Additionally, Steinbeck uses the scorpion to symbolize the arbitrary evils that exist in the world after it stings Coyotito.

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In The Pearl, what are some examples of animal imagery in chapter one?

The first chapter contains a lot of references to animals - pigs, roosters, doves, goats, and also the scorpion which becomes the emblem of evil when it attacks the baby Coyotito. The effect of this is to emphasise the natural surroundings of Kino and his family, and indeed the whole Mexican Indian community.

In fact, Kino's whole race is regarded as being animal-like by the Spanish who have colonised and oppressed them for hundreds of years.

He could kill the doctor more easily than he could talk to him, for all of the doctor's race spoke to all of Kino's race as though they were simple animals. (chapter 1)

This quote serves to highlight the vast gulf between the races; there is simply no meaningful communication, far less any understanding and sympathy, between them. The Spanish view the Indians as being primitive and devoid of reason, the Indians resent the Spanish imposition.

On a more individual note, there is a striking use of animal imagery in relation to Juanita after the baby has been bitten:

She looked up at him, her eyes as cold as the eyes of a lioness. (chapter 1) 

This comparison shows the strength of Juanita's maternal instinct. To save her baby, it is implied, she will do anything; she can turn dangerous if required.

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What is the significance of animal imagery at the start of chapter 3 in The Pearl?

Steinbeck begins by describing the town as an animal, comparing it to an animal in order to stress how the town has a rhythm of its own.

A town is a thing like a colonial animal. A town has a nervous system and a head and shoulders and feet. A town is a thing separate from all other towns, so that there are no two towns alike. And a town has a whole emotion. (ch 3)

Steinbeck is reminding us that the story takes place in a village, and villages have a different social structure.  A village is an entity, a life form, in and of itself.  The town thinks- it has a nervous system and a head.  News seems to travel on its own.  Towns like this also feel; they have their own emotion.  This stresses the cultural aspect of the town, and its uniqueness.  The people of the town act as one.

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