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.
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon

The plot of The Pearl is driven by a constant struggle between the morally opposite forces of good and evil. Evil in The Pearl can appear in both man (the doctor) and nature (the scorpion); both evil man (the doctor) and good man (Kino); both ugly shape (the scorpion) and beautiful shape (the pearl). While the scorpion’s evil takes the form of lethal poison, man’s evil throughout the novel takes the form of overriding greed. The doctor, for instance, is evil because he acts upon greed over human care and professional responsibility. Similarly, the neighbors are evil when they act upon greed over neighborly respect, and Kino is evil when he acts upon greed over love for his wife.

Evil in the novel is an omnipotent, destructive force. One must either bear it (as in the case of the scorpion) or avoid it (as in the case of the pearl), because to combat it only breeds more evil. When Kino tries to fight off the thieves and protect the pearl, for instance, he ends up committing acts of evil himself, on both the thieves and his wife. Kino does destroy the evil-bearers that act to harm his family—he squashes the scorpion, kills the trackers, throws the pearl into the ocean—but he only succeeds in doing so after the evil has run its course and the poison has already seeped in.

Good vs. Evil ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in The Pearl related to the theme of Good vs. Evil.
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.

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“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.

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.

“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.

The killing of a man was not so evil as the killing of a boat. For a boat does not have sons, and a boat cannot protect itself, and a wounded boat does not heal.

Related Symbols: Kino’s Canoe
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

After Kino kills the man, Juana and Kino know that they must leave town: now that Kino is in possession of the pearl that everyone wants, nobody will accept that the killing was committed in self-defense. Kino runs to his beloved canoe to prepare it for departure, and discovers that someone has broken a hole in it. In this quote, Kino is horrified to find his canoe broken. It is his prized possession, having been passed down to him by his father, and is the sole source of his livelihood. Though Kino has already been enraged by the attacks, this crime sparks an even deeper rage within the man, as evidenced by this passage, in which he declares the "value" of the canoe even greater than that of his own life. He feels that he and his family are at odds with the entire world, and feels as if it would have hurt less had he been murdered himself. Though Kino does not know who specifically broke his boat, it represents Kino's rejection by the entire town, further encouraging him to flee with the pearl, Juana, and the baby for their collective protection.

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.