Nature is a powerful force in The Pearl. Natural elements often serve to instigate crucial plot-points. Sometimes they protect (as in the plants that keep Juana and Kino temporarily hidden from the trackers) and feed (as in the fire that cooks the corncakes); while at other times, they destroy (as in the scorpion that poisons Coyotito and the fire that burns down Kino’s house). And throughout the novel, Kino is described as being, like his ancestors, intimately connected with nature. He is said to have “the deep participation with all things, the gift he had from his people. He heard every little sound of the gathering night, the sleepy complaint of settling birds…and the simple hiss of distance.”
Though powerful, however, nature’s force is essentially neutral, despite the meaning that mankind, here Kino and Juana, confer upon it. As described above, the pearl in itself is worthless—a mere cement-wrapped grain of sand—but, in the course of the novel, it represents for Kino and Juana first prosperity and hope, and then evil and despair. In attributing the pearl such meaning, Kino drifts away from his practice of “deep participation with all things” and into a system of valuation that is not his own, and that ultimately ends up backfiring. Finally, ridding himself of the pearl and all of the significance it’s been overlaid with, Kino is free to return to his truly meaningful, ancestral relationship with nature.
Nature Quotes in The Pearl
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.
She gathered some brown seaweed and made a flat damp poultice of it, and this she applied to the baby’s swollen shoulder, which was as good a remedy as any and probably better than the doctor could have done. But the remedy lacked his authority because it was simple and didn’t cost anything.
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.
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.
And Kino ran for the high place, as nearly all animals do when they are pursued.
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.