The Pearl

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The Pearl Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator describes the town as a “colonial animal”: it works as a unit, separate from all other towns, and circulates a uniform emotion. News travels through the town at an inexplicably rapid pace. It takes, therefore, no time at all for everyone in the town to learn that Kino has found "the Pearl of the World."
It has already become apparent that the town functions as an intimate unit, but this passage foreshadows the downside of this intimacy, which will become apparent in the rest of this chapter.
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When the doctor hears of Kino’s pearl, he openly declares that Kino is his client and that he is treating Kino’s son. He then luxuriates in dreams of Paris.
The doctor cares not for the people that he treats, but for their money. All he wants is more wealth and to return to Paris.
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The beggars at the foot of the church are also pleased by the news, hopeful for alms.
While before they looked at Kino as a “poverty” person, now the beggars see him otherwise. Everyone thinks of how they can profit from Kino’s wealth.
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The pearl-dealers sit at their desks, waiting for the pearls to come in. The dealers always assess at the lowest feasible price before there is danger of the pearl-owner giving his treasure somewhere else (once a fisherman, deterred by the low price, donated his pearls to the church). While it appears that each buyer is working as an individual buyer, there is, in fact, only one buyer who stages the dealers separately in order to create the illusion of competition.
The pearl dealers prevent anyone who isn’t already wealthy or powerful from becoming wealthy or powerful. Their assessments have nothing to do with the pearls themselves. The dealers therefore epitomize a society in which those in power remain in power and deny anyone the opportunity for social mobility.
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When the pearl-dealers hear of Kino’s pearl, their fingers burn with anticipation, scheming of how they might become more powerful than their boss, "the patron", or use the wealth for themselves to leave the trade altogether.
Even the dealers reside under the control of a higher power (their patron) and the pearl inspires them, too, to hope for a chance to escape a system of oppression.
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People in the town begin associating the pearl with their own dreams and desires. Kino, who stands in the way as the pearl’s true owner, becomes the obstacle to the satisfaction of these desires. The town swells with something “black and evil.”
As always, the town shares a common emotion, but now their unity works for the worse, creating a communal sense of envy and greed. Everyone sees the pearl as something that can help them, change their lives, and that separates the townspeople from each other.
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Kino and Juana, unaware of the envy that surrounds them, assume that everyone feels the joy that they feel, as Juan Tomas and Apolonia do. In the afternoon, neighbors gather in their brush house and stare in awe at the beautiful pearl, and consider Kino’s luck in finding it.
There are still some, like close family members, who feel happy for Kino and Juana to have found the pearl, but most do not. Kino and Juana at this point to do not realize the extent of the town’s envy and malice.
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The music of the family and the music of the pearl combine, each making the other more beautiful.
Kino relishes in a moment of peace, at which the family and pearl exist harmoniously. When Kino still thinks the pearl will help him, he sees beautiful things in its reflection.
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When Juan Tomas asks Kino what he will do as a rich man, Juana covers her excitement with her shawl and Kino quietly states that he and Juana will be married in a church. He sees visions of their marriage in the pearl—Juana in a new skirt and shoes, he in a new felt hat, Coyotito in an American sailor outfit—and adds that they will have new clothes.
The pearl sparks many dreams that Kino had not dared to consider before he had the financial means. Many of the things he desires are Western—a Christian marriage, a felt hat, a sailor outfit—which suggests that he associates riches with American and European culture, rather than his own.
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Kino continues to look into the pearl, seeing new desirable forms in its translucent surface. He sees a harpoon, and then a carbine, and finally says aloud that he will also, perhaps, have a rifle. Kino’s desire for a rifle, which is the greatest impossibility of all, breaks down the floodgates to whole new territories of desire. Kino has become like all other humans, never satisfied and always wanting more.
The rifle surpasses everything else that Kino has mentioned he wants. The most infeasible of all, it opens the door to a limitless realm of infeasible desires. The rifle, too, is like an upgraded and westernized version of the canoe, Kino’s most valuable possession, in that it helps with daily work and hunting. But unlike the canoe it also carries with it the threat of violence, showing the connection between wealth and power and violence.
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The neighbors echo that Kino will have a rifle.
The neighbors are always there, at the ready to echo and spread the word.
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Juana looks admiringly at Kino while he sees in the pearl visions of ever-grander dreams. He pictures Coyotito at a desk and says aloud that his son will go to school. Juana is startled by this and looks to Kino to see if he means it.
Kino aspires not only for material objects, but also for his son’s intellectual elevation. With wealth, one can learn. And with knowledge, one can think for oneself and not depend upon the wisdom of the colonizers. At the same time, the desire for education is the desire to escape one's current situation, one's current culture.
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Kino continues to prophesy, declaring that his son will read and write and make numbers, and that he and Juana will know things through him. Never having spoken so much in his life, Kino stops, afraid of what he has spoken unknowingly.
Kino is used to listening and being told what to do. It is unusual for him to have declared so much without knowing whether it will come to pass.
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The neighbors acknowledge the marvelousness of this moment and imagine how it will be remembered in years to come. If Kino accomplishes these things, they muse, it will be recalled as a moment of empowerment; if he fails to, it will be recalled as a moment of foolishness.
It is clear that this moment is significant for Kino’s family, whether or not Kino’s prophesies are realized. His speech is a turning point, either to brilliant success or to devastating failure. He has made his dreams known; that is something he can't take back.
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Kino looks down to see that his knuckles are scabbing.
Kino’s healing hand reflects that he is overcoming the powerlessness he felt at the door of the doctor’s.
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Juana begins to make a fire and the neighbors remain. Word comes that the priest is coming to the brush house. The Father, who treats the villagers like children, enters, and reminds Kino that he is named after a “great man.”
The priest represents the colonial influence of evangelism (preaching with the intention of converting natives to Christianity). Now that Kino is wealthy, the priest seems to want him even more to remember Christianity. Perhaps he hopes for a donation?
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Kino begins to hear the song of evil, but knows not what brought it on.
Greed and danger begin to surround the family, without a single identifiable source. It seems that everyone wants something from him.
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The priest tells Kino that he’s heard of the pearl, and that he hopes that Kino will thank God for it and pray to Him for guidance. Kino nods obediently and Juana reports that they plan to be married. The priest blesses them approvingly and leaves.
Kino and Juana perform their obedience to the Father and to his Christian values, like good native subjects.
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The neighbors leave to go to their own houses, and Kino stands outside, feeling alone and unprotected though hearing the Song of the Family from behind him. Now that he has made plans for his family’s future, he begins to steel himself against the attacks that will surely come to prevent him from realizing these plans.
Kino is no longer ignorant of the town’s envy or of the possibility that others might get in the way of his realizing his plans for the betterment of his family. He recognizes that even his fellow townsmen have become possible sources of harm.
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The doctor arrives at the brush house, proclaiming his intention to see the baby, with his servant in tow. Kino’s eyes burn with hatred for the years of subjugation that the doctor represents.
The doctor is already shown to be untrustworthy, as he falsely pretends that he always wanted to treat Coyotito and that he hasn’t been motivated by the pearl. Kino feels this too, and yet he feels powerless in the face of the doctor's knowledge.
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Kino replies that Coyotito is almost all better, but the doctor retorts that there often appears an improvement before a worsening. He shows his doctor’s bag, confident that Kino’s people trust the tools of medicine.
The doctor knows his power over Kino’s people, and the ease with which he can gain their trust in his expertise. He is manipulative, always looking for ways to assure Kino that he knows how to treat a scorpion sting.
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Kino feels trapped between rage and fear, but finally lets the doctor enter. The doctor goes to Coyotito and points to the blueness of Coyotito’s wound, as though an indication that the poison has seeped into the body. Kino can see the blue, and feels he must trust that the doctor knows what it means and that it means anything.
Kino does not want to submit to the white doctor as his ancestors had, but he also does not want to deny his son the proper treatment that the doctor might provide. He opts for giving in to the doctor, because how can he deny his son care? But the story implies that the doctor may be manipulating Kino and Juana.
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The doctor feeds Coyotito a capsule with white powder and gelatin, predicts that the poison will attack before an hour is over, and promises to return then.
Like Kino and Juana, the reader is left uncertain about the doctor’s treatment. Is the doctor healing Coyotito, or is Coyotito already healed and the doctor is poisoning him just to be able to take credit for later saving him?
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When the doctor has gone, Kino wraps the pearl in a rag and hides it in the floor in the corner of the house.
The pearl is too dangerous, too valuable to keep exposed.
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The neighbors speak of the events of the day. A school of fish glitter in the estuary. The shy dog watches the brush house.
Things outside the brush house go on as normal—the neighbors gossip, the fish swim—but meanwhile Kino’s life is becoming complicated now that he has the pearl.
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Juana calls to Kino to show him Coyotito’s stomach spasms and flushed face, which convince the couple that the doctor knew what he was talking about. The neighbors gather when they hear of the sickness.
The reader is left unsure about whether Coyotito’s new symptoms are indeed the delayed effect of the scorpion poison, or if they were brought on by what the doctor administered.
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The doctor returns and declares that he is able to defeat the effect of the poison. He feeds Coyotito ammonia as Kino watches the doctor and his doctor’s bag carefully. The doctor claims that the baby will improve and Juana looks at him admiringly.
The doctor at this point has won Juana’s admiration and the family’s trust in his medicinal expertise, while the reader remains skeptical.
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Kino says that he will pay the doctor once he’s sold his pearl. The doctor feigns to not have heard about the pearl, and offers to secure it in his safe. When Kino refuses, the doctor looks closely at Kino’s eyes to see if they might dart to the pearl’s location.
The doctor pretends that he has come to treat Coyotito out of professional duty and care—as a doctor should—but his true intentions are revealed by his attention to Kino’s eyes—he wants the pearl.
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When everyone has left, Kino listens to the sounds of the night and then reburies the pearl in a hole under his sleeping mat. To Juana’s inquiry about who Kino fears, he responds, “everyone.”
Kino has become fully awakened to the danger of the circumstance of owning such a valuable item. He know sees that it makes them a target to all others, who want it for themselves.
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As Kino and Juana try to fall asleep, Kino’s mind continues to work, dreaming of a learned Coyotito and hearing the music of evil. Then he hears a small sound from the corner of the house, which he recognizes as the sound of feet and fingers. He is taken with fear and grabs the knife from his neck and springs for the source of the sounds. He strikes and misses and then strikes successfully, when he feels explosive pain in his head and blood stream down his face.
Kino's dreams, symbolized by his hopes for Coyotito, once so pure, are now mixed with a sense of danger and foreboding (the song of evil). Kino’s predictions about future attacks now begin to be realized. He was right to have been fearful. This fight sets Kino against everyone else that covets the pearl and therefore isolates Kino and Juana from the rest of the town.
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Kino assures Juana that he is alright, and Juana begins to make a fire and clean Kino’s head wound. She decries the pearl as evil, a sin, and begs Kino to throw it into the sea before it destroys them. Kino refuses, prizing the pearl as their only chance.
This is the first time that the pearl itself is acknowledged as a source of evil. Kino wishes to keep it despite the bad things it’s wrought because it also promises hope and the potential for greatness. Now that he has a chance at a "better" life, he does not want to give it up.
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Kino cleans his knife by plunging it into the earth. Morning sounds enter the house and Kino pulls out the pearl to admire it, full of promise and comfort. Kino and Juana smile together, as one, and greet the morning full of hope.
Kino and Juana return momentarily to the rhythm with which the book opened, grounded in the earth and aware of the nature around them. They try to feel hopeful.
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