The Pearl

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2002

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"Life is a roller coaster." Or so I've heard, but isn't it? Life has it's up and downs, it's backwards and forwards, upside downs and right side ups, loops and twirls, screams of fun and annoyingly pounding headaches. But whenever life brings something, good or bad, people have no choice but to live through it, right? Right. Such an example are the characters Kino, and Juana in the book, The Pearl by John Steinbeck. Kino and Juana are very different people, but because they are different, they are able to respect each other greatly. Throughout the novel it is shown that Juana was less developed as a person than Kino before the pearl; both grew greatly after the pearl but Kino more so than Juana; after all the trials and tribulations Juana is the most admirable, because she was able to predict the outcome the pearl would bring from the bad omens the pearl brought when it was first found.

Before the need of the pearl took place due to Coyotito's scorpion bite, Kino's family basically lived a "happy, go lucky" life. " This is safety, this is warmth, this is the Whole." [p.3] They weren't rich, but they had a home, food, and the necessities to provide for a child. They could go through the day with little talk, basically they knew how to work with each other, they knew when one was hurt, in deep thought, ect. Then the baby was bitten and Kino's and Juana's individual true fears and longings came forth. To the both, family was very important, they both did there best to save Coyotito from being bitten. Kino tried to kill the scorpion before it bit his son and Juana sucked some of the poison out after it was bitten, but as seen from later events like when she tried to persuade Kino to get rid of the pearl by saying, "Kino the pearl is evil. Let us destroy it before it destroys us," [p.56] and then receiving a beating, then refusing to leave Kino's side on the mountains after hearing his orders, from all this it can be said that the only aspect to Juana's personality are her loyalties and devotion to her family, nothing else. Kino on the other hand cares for his family but has his own personal dreams as well, such as a new boat after a hole was made in it because, "The killing of a man was not so evil as the killing of a boat," [p.62] and "it is the bulwark against starvation." [p.14] Kino also dreamed of a rifle. Kino's character was able to form his own opinions about subjects other than family, while Juana was as submissive and servile as one could be, living only to please others, making Juana the lesser developed of the two because she didn't have as many aspects to her personality as compared to Kino.

"This pearl has become my soul, if I give it up I shall lose my soul," [p.67] said Kino, never did he know that by keeping the pearl his soul would not be the only thing that was lost. By keeping the pearl Kino killed men in order to keep it, lost his home, lost his boat, and lost his child. Going through all these tragedies he realized his mistakes, and then he was able to let go of the pearl. He grew more as a character because in the beginning the pearl meant everything to him, a new boat, a rifle, a marriage, and an education for his son, he was so involved in the newly shined on hope that he didn't see how to obtain his dreams in the right way. From making his mistake and having to go through all the consequences that came along with it, he was able to learn what he did wrong, and try to make amends with himself by throwing the pearl in the sea. "And the pearl was ugly; it was gray, like a malignant growth. And Kino heard the music of the pearl, distorted and insane." [p.89]..... "Kino drew back his arm and flung the pearl with all his might" [p.90] He became a new man, a sensible one because he wanted nothing to do with the pearl, the "˜evil' that caused him so much. Juana on the other hand grew due to the lost of her son and the pain she went through as well, but not nearly as much growth as Kino, because she didn't seem to change much at all throughout the story. She stayed loyal.

Kino and Juana both have their strengths and weaknesses that are both admired and disliked. Kino was at first a very admirable man that took care of his family, and did anything to provide for them, but then he clumsily fell into the greediness the pearl overwhelmed him with. He wanted too many things that were not necessary, and reached for it in the wrong way. Of course the good thing is he tried, but to kill people- to ruin someone else's family to help his move one step ahead is wrong. He tried, made a mistake, and learned from it, but it would've been better to follow the advice Juana gave him, "Let us- let us throw it back in the sea where it belongs. Kino, it is evil, it is evil!" [p.57] He should've also thought realistically, how many more people wanted to be rich, how many more wanted the pearl, and how many would kill to have it. Because Juana saw this beforehand, she is the most admirable.

Kino and Juana both have qualities that helped them be the happy family they once were, before the pearl. Once conflict had entered their midst they both projected their individual thoughts and feelings. Kino acted brave, extremely persistent, and protective, while Juana acted smart, helpful, servile, and loyal. They acted the way they did because Kino being a man was brought up to be strong, the provider, to provide the food, shelter, and have little boys to follow in their footsteps. Men were also ignorant as well. "The mountain would stand while the man broke himself; that the sea would surge while the man drowned," [p.59-60] because of this Juana had no chance in persuading Kino not to keep the pearl and stay in the village, Kino could not see her over his dream of having Coyotito educated. Juana being a women was brought up to serve a man "half insane and half god," [p.59] as they are, a women could not live without one to provide for her and give her children. "The quality of woman, the reason, the caution, the sense of preservation, could not cut through Kino's manness and save them all," [p.60] and because of all this tradition, all these qualities that seeped through their kind, in their time, from father to son, and mother to daughter, Kino and Juana have the difference the have.