The Pearl

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The Pearl Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kino awakes in the early morning and looks around him to see his son still asleep in the hanging box, and his wife lying next to him with her eyes open, as though she’d been watching him as he slept.
In the very opening scene, we get a layout of the family hut, and a sense of the caring relationship between Kino and Juana.
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He hears in his head the “Song of the Family,” like the songs of his ancestors before him, and then steps outside of his brush house to watch the sun rise. Juana, meanwhile, begins to make a fire in the pit and to grind corn for morning corncakes.
Juana and Kino begin what appears to be their daily morning routine. Nature and Kino’s ancestors are introduced as significant background characters.
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Kino watches a crowd of industrious ants and coaxes a shy dog that has wandered over to their hut, as Juana makes the cakes and sings to Coyotito. It is a morning like all others, safe and whole.
The crowd of ants, quietly working together, resemble Kino’s family and the town at large. A tone of safety, quiet, gentleness, and mutual care is established.
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Breakfast sounds come from neighboring huts. Two roosters look to be about to fight.
Kino and Juana’s routine is echoed by that of their neighbors.
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Kino goes back into the hut and eats his corncake with Juana, both of them silent because they need not speak, as sun streams in through the hut’s crevices.
The couple’s relationship is so strong that words are superfluous. Their hut is permeated by natural sunlight.
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Suddenly, Kino and Juana freeze as they see a movement from Coyotito’s hanging box and turn their heads to determine its source: a scorpion is climbing slowly down the rope of the hanging box, toward Coyotito.
While nature so far (the ocean, sun, ants) has been a source of peace and quiet, here it becomes a source of danger, in the form of a poisonous creature.
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Kino gets a determined look in his eyes and begins to approach the hanging box, the “Song of Evil” playing in his ears.
Kino steps up as protector of the family as he seeks to take on the scorpion.
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As the scorpion moves further down the rope, Juana prays in a whisper, an ancient prayer as well as a Hail Mary.
Juana’s spiritual invocation combines the faiths of their ancestors and colonizers.
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Kino is reaching for the scorpion when it freezes in place and flicks its tail. Coyotito then laughs and shakes the hanging box’s rope, causing the scorpion to fall on him and sting his shoulder, despite Kino’s attempts to grab it in the air.
Coyotito, naïve to the forces of evil, doesn’t realize the animal’s danger; Kino, who does, still cannot prevent the injury. The scorpion’s sting precipitates the rest of the action in the story.
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From Coyotito’s shoulder, Kino takes the scorpion and squashes it angrily. Juana, meanwhile, tries to suck the poison out of Coyotito’s shoulder. Kino stands by, feeling helpless.
The family was powerless to the attack of evil; all they can do now is try to cure its effects.
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All the neighbors flock to the brush house at the sound of the baby’s cries. They all know that a scorpion bite can easily kill a baby, if sufficient poison has seeped in.
This scene is the first to reveal the unity and proximity of the community surrounding Kino’s hut.
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Just as Kino is admiring her fortitude, Juana demands that the doctor be gotten.
Kino respects his wife’s strength and authority.
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Her request, both wonderful and surprising (because the doctor never visits their neighborhood), spreads quickly through the neighbors. When word gets back that the doctor will not come, Juana decides that the family will go to the doctor themselves.
That her request is considered wonderful, because rarely fulfilled, reveals just how marginalized the brush-house community is from the city. It also illustrates Juana's remarkable dedication to her family.
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The neighbors follow at the heels of Kino and Juana as they walk to and arrive at the city, replete with plaster, stone, and fancy gardens.
Again, the community’s chorus-like quality is illustrated. So, too, is the economic inequality between the city and Kino’s brush-house town.
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Beggars in front of the church there, who know everything about the town—the sins of its inhabitants, the bad ways of the doctor—pin Kino and Juana down as “poverty people,” and look on to see what will come of their visit.
The beggars—a new kind of community—give the reader an outside perspective on Kino and Juana. That the beggars see Kino and Juana as poor truly highlights just how poor and powerless they must be.
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At the doctor’s gate, Kino hesitates, recalling that the doctor’s people had historically oppressed his own people. Finally, still enraged by the recollection, he knocks the iron ring against the gate and reports Coyotito’s sting to the servant who opens it, speaking in the old language because the servant is of his race. The servant does not reply in the old language, and heads inside to call on the doctor.
Kino’s ancestral history of oppression weighs heavily on him. He groups the doctor together with all the white colonizers that have come before him. The servant is an example of someone whose native traditions and language have been replaced by those of the colonizers.
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The Doctor, fleshy and stout, is in his bed, drinking chocolate in a Parisian dressing gown and dreaming of returning to France. Religious pictures, including a photograph of his dead wife, line his walls.
Kino’s suspicions about the doctor’s evil are confirmed by the doctor's rich, luxurious, selfish lifestyle.
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When the servant tells the doctor about Kino and Juana, and Coyotito’s scorpion bite, the doctor becomes angry, insulted by the notion that he would deign to “cure insect bites for ‘little Indians’” for no money. He says, derogatorily, “I am a doctor, not a veterinary.”
The doctor—whose job it is to care for people—now vocalizes his great racial prejudice. He refers to Kino and Juana as though they are animals and not worthy of his time and attention.
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The Doctor asks if Kino has any money, so the servant returns to the gate and asks how Kino planned to pay. When Kino pulls out eight ugly, flat pearls, the servant reports that the doctor had to rush out and would not be able to see them.
In the city, a person is only worth as much as his money, especially if that person is not white. Kino’s worthless pearls here foreshadow the perfect, though still value-less, pearl that he will find later on.
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Shame settles over the group of neighbors and beggars that has followed Kino and Juana; they disperse to save Kino from the humiliation.
The neighborhood procession can only follow Kino and Juana passively. The most they can do when misfortune strikes is to leave the scene.
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Kino stands for a while at the gate, before putting back on his hat. In a sudden lash, he punches the gate, and then looks down at his bloody knuckles in wonderment.
After remaining quiet and collected, and then submissive, throughout this stressful first chapter, Kino lets his frustration show in an uncharacteristic strike of rage. This foreshadows how his further encounters with the values and individuals of the oppressors will drive and corrupt him to violence.
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