The Pearl

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The Pearl Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator describes the town, located on an estuary. Canoes line the beach, constructed according to an old, secret method. Sea animals and algae populate the floor of the ocean, and dogs stalk its shore.
Passages like this emphasize the town’s sense of unity between past and present, between humans and nature, and between humans and animals.
Themes
Nature Theme Icon
An “uncertain air” hangs over the Gulf. Its haziness, the narrator suggests, might account for the Gulf peoples’ trust in imagination.
The natural setting of the Gulf is an important character throughout the novel. Here it’s suggested that it even has the power to subtly determine the mindset of its residents.
Themes
Nature Theme Icon
Kino and Juana walk to the beach, in the direction of their canoe. Kino had inherited the canoe from his father, who inherited it from his own father. It keeps the family from starving, and is described as Kino’s only valuable possession.
The canoe, which is more valuable than it might appear, foreshadows the arrival of another possession that turns out to be less valuable than it appears.
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
On Kino’s blanket, Juana sets down Coyotito, who’s calmed but still swollen. Juana treats his sting with seaweed, which is effective but not as authoritative as a doctor’s treatment.
That the doctor’s treatment is considered superior for its “authority” reveals that Kino and Juana have become subtly dependent upon and convinced by the powerful persons who oppress them.
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
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The narrator notes that Juana has directed her prayers not toward Coyotito’s survival, but toward Kino’s finding a pearl with which to pay a doctor, because her mind is “as unsubstantial as the mirage of the Gulf.”
Here, as elsewhere in the novel, the narrator steps back and judges Kino’s people, suggesting their simplicity and ignorance.
Themes
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Kino and Juana take off in the canoe, and look down at the oyster bed, which, it’s suggested, funded the power and wars of the King of Spain.
Kino and Juana are entering the very system of wealth and evaluation that historically allowed for the Europeans to displace their own people.
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
The narrator describes that a pearl is created through an “accident,” when a grain of sand irritates an oyster’s flesh, and that to find one is to be in God’s favor.
The value of a pearl is arbitrary. Created accidentally, it’s nothing but cement-coated sand. Only God’s will, and not the seeker’s, can assure that the seeker will find one.
Themes
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Kino dives into the water with his basket. Filling it with oysters, he hears in his head the song of his ancestors and, quieter, the Song of the Pearl that Might Be.
The mingling of the ancient song with the song of the pearl represents the larger mingling at work, between Kino’s traditional values and the values of the white Europeans.
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Young and able, Kino stays for a long time underwater, carefully selecting the largest and most promising oysters.
Kino’s own qualities—his strength and fitness— do have some impact on his success in this pearl-seeking venture.
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He finds one oyster lying alone, with a partly opened shell, revealing a gleam within. Kino’s heart beats excitedly and he hears loudly the Song of the Pearl.
The great consequence of this pearl is immediately tangible.
Themes
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Kino reaches the water’s surface and places that final oyster at the bottom of the canoe. Both Kino and Juana try not to get too attached or dwell on Kino’s apparent excitement. Kino opens all the small oysters first, saving the hopeful one for last.
Kino and Juana understand one another without vocalized expression. They can both feel something great but, superstitiously, don’t want to ruin it by acknowledging it.
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When it comes time to open the promising oyster, Kino hesitates, afraid its glint was an illusion, but Juana encourages him.
Kino’s fear that the pearl’s been an illusion confirms the narrator’s description of the Gulf people’s (sometimes deceptive) trust in imagination.
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Finally he pries the shell apart, revealing inside a perfect pearl, moon-like—“the greatest pearl in the world.”
In this moment, the pearl is appreciated for its pure, visual beauty. It’s not yet complicated by external assessments of value.
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Kino hears the Song of the Pearl that Might Be resonant and warm and sees dream forms in his lucky find. Juana comes to look at the pearl, which Kino holds in the hand with which he had punched the doctor’s gate.
Now Kino imagines all that the pearl might bring their family—it reflects his hopes and dreams. The pearl’s location in Kino’s injured hand draws attention to the contrast between Kino’s previous sense of powerlessness and his newly gained sense of power.
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Juana goes over to check on Coyotito and finds that the swelling of his shoulder has gone down. Kino clenches the pearl and howls.
Kino and Juana’s situation seems to be in a trend of improvement: they’ve found a great pearl, and Coyotito appears to be healing.
Themes
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Men in neighboring canoes paddle quickly toward Kino’s.
The neighbors are never far away.
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