The Pearl

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Themes and Colors
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Value and Wealth Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Pearl, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Community Theme Icon

Social structures such as the family, village, and town, are central to The Pearl. The central unit, for Kino and Juana, is the family. Their daily lives and routines are organized around the family, and they make sacrifices for each other and for their son, Coyotito.

Outside the family’s hut is the village, which is small and generally comes together to follow and support Kino and his family when they are in need. The “Pearl of the World,” however, brings worldly concerns of wealth and self-advancement into the village and town, and brings out the worst in the neighbors. It inspires the individualistic greed of the neighbors who try to rob Kino’s home, and the communal conspiring of the pearl dealers who attempt cheat Kino of his deserved money. In the end, the one unit that remains united and strong and full of mutual love, even after loss and injury, is the family: Kino, Juana, and their dead son, Coyotito.

Community ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Community appears in each chapter of The Pearl. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Community Quotes in The Pearl

Below you will find the important quotes in The Pearl related to the theme of Community.
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 1 Quotes

Juana sang softly an ancient song that had only three notes and yet endless variety of interval. And this was part of the family song too. It was all part. Sometimes it rose to an aching chord that caught the throat, saying this is safety, this is warmth, this is the Whole.

Related Characters: Juana
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Kino awakens early one morning, and he and his wife Juana begin their typical routine. As their schedule never falters, they are able to go about their business and communicate without a word. Kino finds great beauty in this morning, due to the fact that it epitomizes the harmony of his home and his family. In this quote, Juana sings a song, "The Song of Family," that simultaneously represents the present peace of their family and their role as members of an ancient group of people. Juana's song brings the family together as a unit and as a part of their larger culture (a culture that, it should be noted, is portrayed in a vague and simplified way by Steinbeck). This song deeply comforts Kino, as it reminds him of his love and protective instincts towards Juana and Coyotito, and his responsibility as a member of the larger town and its people.

Chapter 2 Quotes

Every year Kino refinished his canoe with the hard shell-like plaster by the secret method that had also come to him from his father. Now he came to the canoe and touched the bow tenderly as he always did.

Related Characters: Kino
Related Symbols: Kino’s Canoe
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

As Kino has no money for which to pay for the doctor's treatments, he is turned away from the doctor's house. In desperation, he decides to try his hand at finding a valuable pearl to sell to raise money for Coyotito's medical treatment. In this quote, the narrator shows how much pride and care Kino takes in his canoe. It is a priceless heirloom passed down from his father, and it is the sole source of his livelihood. In coating it with a "hard-shell like plaster," Kino takes care of his canoe in the same matter that a pearl is made (a pearl is created when a grain of sand enters an oyster, and it coats it in a smooth covering to avoid irritation). Kino's canoe represents his indelible connection to his ancestry, to the pearls in the ocean, and his pride in how he provides and cares for Juana and Coyotito. In touching the bow "tenderly," Kino greets his canoe, personifying it to the point that he provides the object with the same respect that he would a person that he cares for. Without the canoe--a representation of his genealogy, and how he feeds himself and his family--Kino would not be alive.

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.

“Who do you fear?” Kino searched for a true answer, and at last he said, “Everyone.” And he could feel a shell of hardness drawing over him.

Related Characters: Kino (speaker), Juana (speaker)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

When Kino goes to bed that evening, he is aware of the fact that he is now a target for those who are jealous of his wealth. He buries the pearl into a spot in the ground beneath his sleeping mat. In the darkness of the night, he hears something enter his hut, and thrusts his knife into the darkness. The figure runs away, and Kino sees blood on his knife. In this quote, Juana asks him who he is afraid of--they don't know who broke into their hut, but they are both aware of the fact that it was someone who wanted to steal the pearl. Kino replies that he is afraid of everyone, for it could have been anyone who broke into the hut. The intrusion represents the hostility that many members of the town now secretly harbor towards Kino due to his seemingly random stroke of luck. Like a grain of sand being coated until it is made into a pearl, Kino feels himself acquiring a shell--though this shell is one of "hardness." Kino knows that he must now be prepared to physically protect himself and his family from his own community--as well as from the pearl itself, which increasingly seems like an omen of evil, rather than good fortune. 

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.

“I am afraid. A man can be killed. Let us throw the pearl back into the sea.” “Hush,” he said fiercely. “I am a man. Hush.”

Related Characters: Kino (speaker), Juana (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

After refusing to sell the pearl to the pearl-dealer, Kino must defend himself and their home against another intruder. In this quote, Juana, convinced that the pearl is an evil object that will bring them only misfortune, urges Kino to throw it back into the sea. Kino silences Juana's pleas, fiercely telling her that he is "a man." This is the first time that the reader sees discord in Juana and Kino's seemingly harmonious relationship. Though Kino holds great respect for his wife and all she does to take care of the family, he exerts control over her when he does not get his way, in line with the tradition of patriarchy. By simply asserting the fact that he is a "man," he expresses his right to control Juana, a woman, and that he possesses the power and bravery to protect the family against any foes that challenge them. However, it is this hubris--and the jealousy of those who want the pearl--that will end up destroying the family.

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

“Juana,” he said, “I will go and you will hide…if I can escape them, I will come to you. It is the only safe way.” She looked full into his eyes for a moment. “No,” she said. “We go with you.”

Related Characters: Kino (speaker), Juana (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Pursued ever closer by the trackers, Kino is fearful for himself and his family. Since Juana is carrying Coyotito and must constantly make sure he remains silent, she cannot move as quickly as Kino can alone. In this quote, Kino urges her to hide in the mountains while he continues to move alone, creating a fake trail and ultimately sneaking up on the trackers to attack them. However, Juana refuses on the grounds that the family must stay together. This moment is a harkening back to the beginning of the story, before the family was struck with the mixed fortunes of the scorpion sting and the pearl, when everything was in harmony. Throughout all of the trauma that has come with the "good luck" of the pearl, the family has remained the most important thing in their lives, the thing that will be there regardless of the fortune, or misfortune, of the pearl. Though Juana is resigned to the loss of their old lives, she refuses to split up the family.

Everyone in La Paz remembers the return of the family; there may be some old ones who saw it, but those whose fathers and whose grandfathers told it to them remember it nevertheless. It is an event that happened to everyone.

Related Characters: Kino, Juana, Coyotito
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Like the quote at the beginning of the story, this quote notes that the story of Kino, Juana, and the pearl is one that is told for generations. Though the misfortunes specifically befell one family, it is perceived as a tragedy that affected the entire town. Since the town is so small, and everyone knows everything about everybody, no detail of the story remained private to Kino and Juana. Given the brutality that the people endured at the hands of the white settlers, and the subjugation they still face, each fortune is regarded as a collective one--leading to everyone wanting a piece of Kino's pearl--and each tragedy is a burden to every member of the town, not just those people it specifically effects. By retelling the story, generations bear the weight of how the promise of wealth can drive a person mad, and also bear the sadness of Coyotito's senseless death. It is a parable that warns against greed and envy, and places importance in family and safety above riches and wealth. One must always be wary of a sudden stroke of luck--if it seems too good to be true, it just might be.

The two came from the rutted country road into the city, and they were not walking in single file, Kino ahead and Juana behind, as usual, but side by side.

Related Characters: Kino, Juana
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

After Coyotito's death, Juana and Kino return to the town, their lives irreparably changed. Having lost one-third of their family unit, the couple no longer cares as to what might happen to them should they return to town and be accused of murder. In this quote, the narrator notes that Juana and Kino walked back into town side by side, rather than Kino leading the way, as the man of the couple (presumably) does in their culture. The tragedy that has befallen their family has made them equals in their misery. The burden of the curse of the pearl is something that they share in equal parts. After seeing the courage and commitment that Juana displayed in their escape from town, Kino no longer believes that his status as a man and Juana's as a woman makes her inferior to him in terms of moral character. The fact that the two walk back side by side, a departure from how the couple used to comport itself, is a signal to the townspeople that a profound event has happened to the couple to change their habits so significantly.

The people say that the two seemed to be removed from human experience; that they had gone through pain and had come out on the other side; that there was almost a magical protection about them.

Related Characters: Kino, Juana
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

As Juana and Kino walk back into the town, they seem changed in a way that the observers cannot quite put their fingers on. In this quote, the narrator of the story--which has now changed from the story of Kino and Juana to the parable of the Pearl, told by future generations--notes that the pair seems to have transcended their tragedy to the point that they, like the pearl did at first, seem to be coated in magic. It is implied that this "magical protection" protects the couple from the potential implications of Kino's murder, but more profoundly it's suggested that all the pain they have suffered has hardened them--in the future they might experience the usual bad luck of life, but they are now separate from emotion and normal human experience.