There is no doubt that Kino’s majestic pearl symbolizes and portrays different ideas and feelings throughout John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. Kino dives for the pearl and sees it as a symbol of hope and a bright future. However, with the ironic ending of the novel, it is easy to conclude that Kino and Juana feel differently about the pearl at the end of the story than they did at the beginning. So, how exactly does the pearl’s symbolism change? Not long after little Coyotito is stung by a deadly scorpion, Kino dives into the sea and finds what he refers to as the Pearl of the World.
Kino looks into the iridescent surface of the pearl and is filled with a sensation of hope for himself, his son, and his wife. He sees in the pearl scenarios he could only dream of. Kino sees his son learning to read and write and Juana, clad in beautiful clothing, marrying him in a church. He sees himself with a rifle, something he has always wanted. Kino knows that his pearl will change his life and the lives of his family forever. However, the change does not come in the way Kino suspects. Though it is soon after the pearl’s discovery, the pearl’s symbolism and energy are already beginning to shift.
This is evident when Steinbeck writes that the neighboring villagers “looked at the pearl in Kino’s hand and they wondered how such luck could come to any man” (24). By directly stating how the neighbors feel about Kino’s pearl, Steinbeck also indirectly reveals another emotion amongst the people: jealousy. At this point, the pearl symbolizes envy and greed. All of the neighbors want this lovely pearl, and many are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Kino senses this and hides his pearl in a hole in the ground.
However, even with the danger of robbery that it brings to his family, Kino still wants to keep the earl, as it is a great treasure to him. By this point, Juana is feeling the negative energy of the pearl, and the overall symbolism of the pearl is split between two characters: Kino and Juana. After the unsuccessful robbery organized by the doctor, Juana no longer sees the pearl as a symbol of good things and buoyancy. She sees the pearl as a symbol of evil and wicked. Juana warns Kino that the pearl “is like a sin” (38). She continues to cry, “Let us throw it back into the sea.
It has brought evil” (38). Kino promptly brushes her opinion away and looks at his pearl, hich he sees as beautiful. To him, Juana is thinking irrationally and the pearl is going to save them, not destroy them. Kino’s idea of the pearl’s symbolism is still on the more optimistic side. He believes that when he sells his valued pearl, he and his family will become rich, for he knows the pearl is of great worth. Much to his dismay, though, Kino’s selling of the pearl does not go as planned. The buyers do not offer a high price, and Kino feels he is being cheated.
He storms out of the shop with his pearl in his hand and a plan driven by greed in his head. He tells Juana he will go to the Capital and sell his pearl there, for he knows that the pearl is worth much more than what was offered. Steinbeck uses this situation to show how the pearl is affecting and changing everyone who comes in contact with it. Kino was once content with his life, but now all he wants is wealth. Readers are truly seeing the pearl for what it is: a symbol of greed, struggle, and despair. After the unsuccessful attempt to sell the pearl, the real climax and turning point of the story occurs.
Within one night of fear and confusion, the family’s lives are completely changed, and now there is no going back. Juana is beaten by her husband when he catches her trying to dispose of the pearl. Kino is attacked by thieves and kills one of the men in self defense. He then discovers his canoe has been destroyed, as well as his home. The three stay with Kino’s brother for the night, planning to flee in the morning. They know they cannot stay in the town, for Kino’s story will never be believed by any of the townspeople. Kino and Juan Tomas embrace one another before Kino and his family leave on the treacherous journey to the north.
Now, Kino feels as if he has come too far to give up on the pearl now. He sees the pearl is destroying his life, but he says to Juan Tomas, “This pearl has become my soul. If I give it up I shall also lose my soul” (67). Kino takes his wife and baby and leaves the town of La Paz. Trackers are soon after the family, and they dash off to hideout in the mountains. The trackers are still close. Kino orders Juana to stay in the cave with Coyotito. He strips himself of his white clothing, for it will make him an easier target in the night. Kino takes careful steps down to the area where the trackers rest.
He plans his attack strategically, but he is distracted by a himpering noise from above. Coyotito is crying. The trackers believe it is a coyote pup howling, and one of them shoots his rifle at the source of the sound. Kino pounces on the trackers, beating them in a frenzy of impulsive rage. He kills two trackers who were fighting back, but he also shoots the third, who was running away. Readers can see clearly now how the pearl has changed and how it has manipulated Kino. The pearl symbolizes evil; it represents a lust for murder and death. Kino and Juana walk together back into their village.
Kino carries a rifle and his infamous pearl. Juana carries a limp and bloody bundle in her shawl. Kino sets the rifle down and looks into the pearl one last time. He once saw the forthcoming wonders that he had dreamed of. Now, however, he sees the revolting events that have happened. He sees his wife, defeated, crawling on her knees. He sees his son with his head blown away by the impact of the tracker’s bullet. “And the pearl was ugly; it was gray, like a malignant growth. And Kino heard the music of the pearl, distorted and insane” (89). Kino sees all the evil the pearl brought him.
He sees all the wicked and all the havoc it has reaked. Kino finally looks at the pearl, a symbol of destruction and pain, and he flings it into the sea. symbolism changes, in simple and unsophisticated speak, from good to bad throughout The Pearl. Once representing hope and wishful thinking, the pearl now symbolizes death, despair, and destruction. It symbolizes greed and envy; the pearl represents In conclusion, the pearl’s malevolence. Ultimately, the changing symbolism of the pearl is Steinbeck’s way of writing a simple story with a lucid and uncomplicated plot that has a deeper and more intricate underlying meaning.