The Pearl

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The Pearl Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator remarks on the marvel of the little town’s interconnectedness, how it keeps track of everything within it. A regular pattern has developed in the town, and whenever one person disturbs this pattern, everyone hears about it. So, it’s quickly known by all that Kino intends to sell his pearl.
Kino has disturbed the natural flow of the town by finding such an inordinate treasure. He becomes, therefore, the subject of attention throughout the town.
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The pearl dealers have heard word of Kino’s intention and they sit in their offices and fantasize. All under the control of a single buyer, they all know ahead of time what they’ll offer and how much they’ll bid. Though they will not earn more than their regular wages, they are still excited for the pure thrill of the task of bidding down a worthy seller.
While Kino and Juana’s trip into the town is a momentous, once-in-a-lifetime occasion, for the pearl dealers, it is their day job, which they always go about in the same way, with no surprises, and with the sole intention of cheating the seller.
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The air is yellow and thick, but through it, a tall mountain two hundred miles away can be seen.
In the midst of commerce and economic valuation, nature beckons. The thick yellow air may symbolize the "pollution" of the corruption of the town, while the mountain symbolizes Kino's hopes.
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The fishermen will not look for fish today. All the neighbors talk of the pearl and what they would do if they’d found it. Most of them fantasize about religious deeds and donations, and they hope that the pearl will not do bad things to Kino and his family.
The selling of the pearl is an event not only for the family but for everyone in the town. It occupies everyone’s days and thoughts. All the town people sense that the pearl might bring great joy, but could also lead to great sadness.
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The importance of this day for Kino and Juana is felt very strongly. Juana dreams of a baptism for Coyotito.
That Juana dreams of baptism represents how thoroughly she’s internalized a Christian vision of wealth and happiness.
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All the neighbors go, as expected, to follow Kino and Juana to the pearl dealers.
Again, the neighbors follow the family in a supportive procession, just as they did to the doctor's.
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Juana and Kino prepare to go with Coyotito, Kino tilting his hat forward to convey his serious intentions. The pearl lies in a leather bag in Kino’s pocket.
The family gets ready to face what they expect to be a very important day.
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Juan Tomas walks next to Kino, warning his brother that the dealers might cheat him, because Kino doesn’t know what buyers in other places would offer for the same. He tells him that there was a time when there was only one agent who collected all the dealers’ pearls and brought them to the capital, but that the system was changed back when one such agent kept all the pearls for himself.
Juan Tomas demonstrates his wisdom, warning Kino against the very thing that will come to pass. He describes the current pearl-dealing system, with all dealers operating under one buyer, but as though it existed in the past. He does not realize that the pearl dealers have simply become more sophisticated in hiding their corruption.
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Kino posits that that old system was a good idea, but that it went against the priest's sermons, which dictate for every man to act faithfully and like a soldier for God.
Kino doesn’t realize that while he follows the ideals preached by the priest, the white men who brought the priest in feel no such compunction, and simply hide their non-Christian activity. Kino has internalized the Father’s values as his own, indicating his increasingly Christian convictions.
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The brothers resemble their ancestors and Kino uses his only defense—a stolid facial expression.
Without power or wealth, Kino has learned to gain respect with his face, the only possession that cannot be taken from him.
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The procession moves slowly, under the weight of the significant event to come, and townspeople look on. The pearl dealers prepare their offices.
Suspense grows as the procession savors the significance of this journey.
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Kino goes in to one particular dealer, a “jolly man” capable of laughter and sorrow. He is rolling a coin over his knuckles, performing a swift and mindless visual trick. When Kino walks in the man hides the coin.
The dealer’s facility with the coin symbolizes his general smoothness, quickness, and trickiness, which he can presumably use in his trade to cheat clients.
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The dealer continues to play with the coin behind his desk as he speaks to Kino, asks to see the pearl, and promises the best price. Kino brings out the bag slowly, with great suspense, and removes the pearl. When the dealer sees it, his face does not change but his coin slips in his hand.
The dealer is able to keep a straight face, but his slip of the hand reveals his astonishment at the pearl’s magnificence. Of course he has hidden his hand behind the table, so Kino cannot see it.
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The neighbors whisper to each other as the dealer fingers the pearl, before throwing it back into the tray and declaring the pearl worthless because it is too big and clumsy. He assesses it at a mere 1000 pesos. Kino tries to defend the pearl and accuses the dealer of cheating him. The dealer, now a little fearful, instructs Kino to ask around for other appraisals.
All the anticipation of the pearl’s great appraisal has led to this disappointment. The distance between how much the pearl seems to be worth and how much it’s deemed worth is so great that Kino feels he must have been cheated. And in fact Kino is being cheated, but if the only people who buy pearls are all trying to cheat you, then the pearl isn't really worth what it's "worth." This makes the pearl different from Kino's canoe, the value of which does not depend on the assessment or power of another.
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The neighbors confirm under their breaths that they had been wary of something like this, but comment, too, that 1000 pesos isn’t nothing.
The pearl had, indeed, seemed almost too good to be true. The neighbors also realize how quickly Kino has absorbed the expectations of a man with money. A thousand peso's could improve Kino's life, just not in the way he had dreamed. But he has stated his dreams, and cannot go back.
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Kino feels evil swell about him, but gains strength when he looks at Juana.
Even as evil surrounds them, the family remains strong and united.
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Three neighboring pearl dealers enter the office and the one sitting at the desk tells them that he has made an offer but wants to see how they will assess the pearl without knowing his own offer. One calls the pearl a monstrosity and won’t offer any money. Another says that “better pearls are made of paste.” A third offers 500 pesos.
The fact that these individual dealers all come to say the same thing about the pearl is supposed to reinforce the first dealer’s appraisal, but the reader knows already that it’s all a scheme to deny Kino what he deserves—to keep the poor poor and the rich even richer.
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Kino grabs the pearl and cries that he’s been cheated and will go to the capital. In order not to lose his pearl, the first dealer quickly interjects that he will raise his offer. Kino leaves, furious.
Kino sticks to his instincts and his principles, refusing to let his family and his dignity be cheated. That the pearl dealer rushes to re-bid reveals that he was in fact withholding the pearl’s true worth.
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In the evening, all the neighbors analyze the event. They consider the possibility that the dealers had spoken and plotted beforehand, but dismiss the notion. Some think that Kino has destroyed himself. Others think that Kino is brave.
Kino has acted boldly, and no one can know what will come of his boldness. The observant neighbors can only speculate upon it. As it turns out, all the neighbors are right. He is both brave and has destroyed himself.
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In his house, Kino mulls over the possibility of going to the capital, at first wary of the idea and then determined. Juana watches him bury the pearl and feeds Coyotito.
Having rejected the pearl-dealers, Kino has nowhere to turn but the capital. It is a place he fears, but his last remaining hope.
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Juan Tomas comes in and is silent for a long time, before expressing fear for Kino now that has acted against the dealers and the whole system they represent. Juan encourages Kino to leave the town, but suggests that the capital may not be the best place to go because, there, Kino and Juana will have no one to rely on.
Juan articulates the reality of the situation: Kino has disturbed not just the flow and pattern of town, but the whole system of power and money of which the town is a part. He must beware the consequences of his rebellion against these forces.
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Kino insists that he must go, at least to give his son a chance, and proclaims that his friends will protect him. Juan corrects this, suggesting that his friends will only help him if it doesn’t discomfort them.
Kino remains hopeful about the promise of the pearl and the capital, but Juan, the wiser older brother, knows of the selfishness of mankind.
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Kino says “Go with God” and, when Juan leaves, Kino sits observing all the sounds that surround him. Juana sits with him for comfort and sings the song of the family.
For a moment, Kino returns to his traditional way of communing with nature and feeling the comfort of family.
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Kino senses something outside the house and clutches his knife as he walks outside. Juana hears a struggle and when she goes outside, Kino is on the ground with no one around.
Despite any temporary semblance of comfort and calm, danger is always lurking just outside. When it is dark, when no one can see who is attacking, those motivated by greed make their moves.
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Juana brings Kino, half conscious, into the house and wipes off his blood. Kino reports that he could not identify the attacker, and Juana tries again to convince him to destroy the pearl before it destroys them.
Juana uses this most recent attack as further evidence that the pearl only breeds evil. She realizes that the family was happy even without the wealth offered by the pearl, and that the promise isn't worth the cost.
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Kino insists that he will defeat the evil forces, declaring himself “a man.” He confirms the plan to go to the capital the next day, and the couple prepares for sleep.
Kino is too proud to get rid of the pearl. He cites his masculinity as reason for his strength.
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