The Pearl

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The Pearl Symbol Analysis

The Pearl Symbol Icon
The pearl is a complicated symbol. It highlights different themes and gathers new meaning as the plot progresses. When Kino first opens the oyster in which it lies, the pearl seems to signify that God is looking favorably on Kino and Juana. It soon becomes clear, however, that finding the pearl is not good fortune at all. Rather, it surfaces the evil and greedy impulses of everyone that comes into contact with it and thus symbolizes the materialism and selfishness of man’s desires. It represents, too, the arbitrariness of value and the capacity of an economic system to prevent those who are powerless from rising above their present state. Created by an accident with a grain of sand, the pearl is assigned a price—the lowest price possible—by conspiring pearl-dealers. Kino is cheated in this system because he is not powerful enough (and is assumed to be too ignorant) to see through the scandal and fight it.

The Pearl Quotes in The Pearl

The The Pearl quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Pearl. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Community Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Pearl published in 2002.
Prologue Quotes

“In the town they tell the story of the great pearl—how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife, Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story has been told so often, it has taken root in every man’s mind…If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it. In any case, they say in the town that…”

Related Characters: Kino, Juana, Coyotito
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote appears as a prologue to the story. The quotation marks that bookend the quote suggest that it is one that is often spoken aloud in the telling of the proceeding story. Thus, the story of the "great pearl" has essentially become a parable, such as The Boy who Cried Wolf or The Tortoise and the Hare. Its perpetual telling is meant to teach the listener a lesson, based on the morals gleaned from the misfortunes of Kino, Juana, and Coyotito that befell them once the Great Pearl came into their lives. The lack of geographic specificity in regards to the "town" in which this story is told suggests that, in addition to becoming a vague kind of legend, the tale is passed along in various towns as a warning of the dangers of sudden fortune.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

In the surface of the great pearl he could see dream forms. He picked the pearl from the dying flesh and held it in his palm, and he turned it over and saw that its curve was perfect.

Related Characters: Kino
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

In diving to search for oysters, Kino sees a large one separated from the clusters of oysters. He is drawn to it for its singularity and a glimmer between its lips, which hints to a pearl within. When he brings it back to the canoe, he opens the oyster with bated breath and is shocked to find a massive pearl inside. In this quote, Kino pries the pearl from the dying oyster and suddenly realizes that it could be his ticket to great wealth. As Kino has lived in poverty his entire life, he believes that all his dreams can come true with a fortune such as this. Since much of the livelihood of the people in the region come from selling pearls, finding such a perfect one in his time of need seems to be a sign that he is destined to do great things. Unfortunately, it turns out that the opposite is the case--nature is uncaring for human fate, and value and "luck" are often determined by corrupt people in power.

Chapter 3 Quotes

The essence of pearl mixed with the essence of men and a curious dark residue was precipitated. Every man suddenly became related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino’s pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes…of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man’s enemy.

Related Characters: Kino
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

In the small town, word travels fast, and it is not long until all of the townspeople hear of Kino's pearl. As many of these people earn their living selling pearls from oysters at the bottom of the ocean, they are shocked that it was Kino, a normal man, who has found the "pearl of the world." Immediately, everyone imagines what they would do if they were in possession of such riches--or what they would like to do with Kino's imminent wealth. As the narrator notes, Kino immediately becomes everyone's "enemy"--why was he the one chosen to find such a fortune among a town of pearl divers? Those who wish that they themselves had found the pearl become irrationally angry and jealous that Kino has something they desire. Contrary to the beautiful sheen that coats a pearl and makes it so precious, the town is coated in a "curious dark residue" that makes the previously close, supportive community now envious and vengeful. Without realizing what he has done, Kino is suddenly the target of every man's jealousy and desire, simply because he possesses the pearl.

“I hope thou wilt remember to give thanks, my son, to Him who has given thee this treasure, and to pray for guidance in the future.”

Related Characters: The priest (speaker), Kino
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Having heard about the Pearl, the priest visits Kino under the guise of wishing him well, but with the actual intention of influencing him to donate money to the Church. Rather than praising Kino for his good luck, the priest attributes Kino's good fortune to the generosity and guidance of the Christian God.The priest, a white missionary, calls each of the townspeople his "son" or "daughter" in a manner that is traditional, but in this power dynamic may be seen as patronizing. In the colonization of the Americas, conversion was frequently used as a method of control. Instead of treating the natives as his equal, the priest infantilizes them, and believes he can manipulate them under the guise of tenants of the Church. This is similar, though not as extreme, to the way that the doctor nastily notes that he does not like to treat the natives because he is not a "veterinarian," thus implying that he believes the indigenous people as so inferior to him that they are on par with animals.

Chapter 4 Quotes

All of the neighbors hoped that sudden wealth would not turn Kino’s head, would not make a rich man of him, would not graft onto him the evil limbs of greed and hatred and coldness. For Kino was a well-liked man; it would be a shame if the pearl destroyed him.

Related Characters: Kino
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Still reeling from Kino's good fortune, the townspeople continue to gossip about how the riches will affect Kino and his family. In this quote, his neighbors note that they hope the sudden wealth will not change Kino into a greedy and cold man. The only very wealthy people that the townspeople know are white settlers, who cruelly treat the native people as inferiors. As the indigenous people have been subjugated into extreme poverty by the settlers, the luxury of the lives of white people is something that they aspire to, but also one that they abhor. Ironically, it is the townspeople that end up changing Kino, as much as the pearl itself changes him. Because Kino's former friends and peers constantly try to steal the pearl and attack Kino, he becomes paranoid and aggressive, eventually losing not only his potential for wealth and good fortune, but also his past innocence and happiness.

But there was no sign, no movement, the face did not change, but the secret hand behind the desk missed in its precision. The coin stumbled over a knuckle and slipped silently into the dealer’s lap.

Related Characters: The pearl-dealers
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Knowing that holding onto the pearl makes him a target, Kino brings the pearl to a pearl-dealer the morning after he finds the precious jewel. Of course, the entire town finds out, and follows him to the office of the pearl-dealer. The narrator informs the reader that all the pearl-dealers secretly work for the same employer under a salary, so that there is no competition in prices. The townspeople, who make their living selling pearls, do not know that they have been cheated their entire lives. The pearl-dealer, having heard of Kino's great pearl, acts calm and collected when Kino arrives. He expertly plays with a coin that weaves through his knuckles as he speaks with Kino. In this quote, the pearl-dealer sees the pearl itself for the first time. Even though he keeps a calm face, the fact that he drops the coin means that he is shocked by what he sees. Kino has indeed found the pearl of the world--but the pearl-dealer, like everyone else in town, will attempt to cheat him out of the riches he is due.

Chapter 5 Quotes

A dead man in the path and Kino’s knife, dark bladed beside him, convinced her. All of the time Juana had been trying to rescue something of the old peace, of the time before the pearl. But now it was gone, and there was no retrieving it.

Related Characters: Kino, Juana
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

After violently halting Juana from throwing the pearl back into the sea in the middle of the night, Kino attacks two figures who attempt to steal the pearl from him. One person runs away, while the other further fights back, resulting in his murder by Kino's hand. In this quote, Juana sees the dead body and knows that their lives will never again be the same: the life that they had known before the pearl is gone forever. By creeping out of the hut while Kino was asleep, Juana attempted to banish the pearl from their lives while there was still a chance to return to the poor-but-happy harmony they had (in both their family and their community) before the fateful sting of the scorpion. Now, however, she knows that their is no turning back, and so she commits herself to trusting Kino and protecting the pearl at all costs.

Chapter 6 Quotes

And then Kino laid the rifle down, and he dug among his clothes, and then he held the great pearl in his hand. He looked into its surface and it was gray and ulcerous. Evil faces peered from it into his eyes, and he saw the light of burning.

Related Characters: Kino, Juana
Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Upon returning to town after running for their lives and losing their child, Juana and Kino silently agree that they must be rid of the pearl. Kino bears a rifle, which he won in his altercation with the trackers. Though he finally achieves his dream of owning a rifle, it has come at a great cost--and certainly not one that he would have consented to had he been given the choice. Though the pearl had seemed so beautiful and lovely to him when he first found it, it now seems ugly and evil, as Juana had foretold. In its mottled sheen he sees his own reflection--he has murdered as many people as there have been days since finding the pearl, and he finds his own eyes to be evil. Though Kino knows he cannot earn back what he has lost--his own innocence, and the harmony of their family and community--he knows that he can rid the family of further evil by returning the pearl to the sea. 

And the pearl settled into the lovely green water and dropped toward the bottom. The waving branches of the algae called to it and beckoned to it.

Related Symbols: The Pearl
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

Kino offers Juana the pearl to throw back into the ocean, but she urges her husband to do it instead. He tosses the pearl back where he found it, and in this quote, it settles among the algae at the bottom of the sea. The personification of the "waving branches" and the calling and beckoning of the algae suggests that the pearl is a part of some kind of intelligent sea system that has known the pearl would eventually be returned to it (presumably after wreaking havoc among the world of humankind). This ending is rather ominous in one sense, but it also shows how arbitrary are human ideas of value and beauty. The pearl first appeared as lovely and priceless, then in the eyes of the corrupt pearl-dealers its value was lowered as a means of oppression, and then it became a kind of curse and hideous object when it led to so much death and destruction for the family. Now that it has been returned to its natural environment, however, the pearl once again resumes a kind of innocence--something unconcerned with human fate or desires, something beautiful in itself but no more "valuable" than the algae that embraces it.

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The Pearl Symbol Timeline in The Pearl

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Pearl appears in The Pearl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...revealing a gleam within. Kino’s heart beats excitedly and he hears loudly the Song of the Pearl . (full context)
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Finally he pries the shell apart, revealing inside a perfect pearl, moon-like—“the greatest pearl in the world.” (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...Coyotito and finds that the swelling of his shoulder has gone down. Kino clenches the pearl and howls. (full context)
Chapter 3
Community Theme Icon
...time at all for everyone in the town to learn that Kino has found " the Pearl of the World." (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
When the doctor hears of Kino’s pearl, he openly declares that Kino is his client and that he is treating Kino’s son.... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
When the pearl-dealers hear of Kino’s pearl, their fingers burn with anticipation, scheming of how they might become... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
People in the town begin associating the pearl with their own dreams and desires. Kino, who stands in the way as the pearl’s... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...the afternoon, neighbors gather in their brush house and stare in awe at the beautiful pearl, and consider Kino’s luck in finding it. (full context)
Community Theme Icon
The music of the family and the music of the pearl combine, each making the other more beautiful. (full context)
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Kino continues to look into the pearl, seeing new desirable forms in its translucent surface. He sees a harpoon, and then a... (full context)
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Chapter 4
Community Theme Icon
...hears about it. So, it’s quickly known by all that Kino intends to sell his pearl. (full context)
Community Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Kino grabs the pearl and cries that he’s been cheated and will go to the capital. In order not... (full context)
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
...capital, at first wary of the idea and then determined. Juana watches him bury the pearl and feeds Coyotito. (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...could not identify the attacker, and Juana tries again to convince him to destroy the pearl before it destroys them. (full context)
Chapter 5
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...to run towards the water and lifts her arm with the intention of throwing the pearl. Kino jumps on her, grabs the pearl from her hand, and then hits her face... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...engages in a fight with another body whose fingers search through his clothes for the pearl. The pearl is forced from Kino’s hand and lands upon the ground. (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Following after Kino, Juana comes across the pearl. She is considering whether she ought to try disposing of it again when she sees... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Kino begins to complain of having lost the pearl, but Juana silences him by presenting it. She tries to explain to Kino that they... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...the attacks and the murder he committed in self-defense, to which Juan replies that the pearl contains a devil and that it must be gotten rid of. Without house, canoe, or... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...calls to his brother, “Go with God,” and asks if he might give up the pearl. To this, Kino responds that the pearl has become his soul. (full context)
Chapter 6
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...are being followed. Kino is certain that they will be. When Juana’s says that the pearl is actually worthless after all, Kino reasons that it must be valuable or else people... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Kino declares aloud that he will have a rifle, but can see in the pearl only the man he’s killed. He declares that he and Juana will be married, but... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Kino puts the pearl back and the music of evil interweaves again with the music of the pearl. (full context)
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
...Juana challenges him, doubting that the trackers would let him live once they stole his pearl. Kino is overwhelmed with despair. Finally Kino proposes that they go into the mountains to... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...looking towards the ruined canoe, and Kino lays down the rifle and takes out the pearl, offering it to Juana. She insists that he do the deed. He flings the pearl... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Kino and Juana stand next to one another and the music of the pearl fades away. (full context)