The Pearl

The Pearl Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6

As Kino and Juana travel northward, Kino feels a sense of exhilaration along with his fear. They walk all night and rest during the day so that they may not be found, and attempt to cover their tracks so that they cannot be followed easily. Kino warns Juana that "whoever finds us will take the pearl," but Juana wonders whether the dealers were right and the pearl has no value. Kino says that they would not have tried to steal it if it were not valuable. Kino repeats what they will have once they sell the pearl: the church wedding, the rifle, education for Coyotito.

When they stop to rest during the day, Juana does not sleep and Kino stirs as he dreams. When they hear noises from the distance, Kino orders Juana to keep Coyotito quiet. While Juana hides, Kino moves through the brush to see what he heard, and notices in the distance three bighorn sheep trackers, one of whom is on horseback. Kino realizes that if the trackers find them, he must leap for the horseman, kill him and take his rifle. As the horseman passes by Kino, he does not notice him. Kino and Juana both realize that if the trackers find them, they will kill them to get the pearl.

Kino and Juana escape into the mountains, not bothering to cover their tracks. Kino orders Juana and Coyotito to leave him, for he can go faster alone, but she staunchly refuses. Kino and Juana take a zigzag path in order to thwart the trackers, and eventually find a small stream and the entrance to a cave. Kino tells Juana to hide in the cave, and he fears that Coyotito will cry, alerting the trackers.

While hiding in the cave, Kino finds that the trackers are by the stream. So that he will not be seen, Kino takes off his white clothing and stealthily creeps near them as they rest. The trackers can hear Coyotito, but think that it is merely a coyote pup. As the tracker prepares to shoot what he thinks is a coyote, Kino approaches the trackers and pounces on them. He grabs one of the trackers' rifle and shoots him between the eyes, and stabs another with his knife. The third tracker escapes up the cliff toward the cave, but Kino shoots him. Kino stands silently and hears nothing but the cry of death. Coyotito has been shot.

Kino and Juana arrive back in La Paz; he carries a gun while she carries her shawl with a limp, heavy bundle. Their return to La Paz becomes a notable event: "there may e 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." Juana appears hardened and tight with fatigue. Kino thinks of the Song of the Family, which has become his battle cry. As they return to La Paz, nobody speaks to them and even Juan Tomas cannot bear to say a word. Kino and Juana approach the gulf, and in the surface of the pearl Kino remembers seeing Coyotito lying in the cave with his head shot away. Kino throws the pearl into the ocean.


The final chapter focuses primarily on the hunt for Kino and Juana as they try to escape La Paz and reach the capital so that they can sell the pearl. Steinbeck creates the sense that Kino and Juana are followed at all times. Pursued by bighorn sheep trackers, Juana and Kino are literally hunted like animals. The division between man and animal is an important motif throughout this chapter. It primarily relates to Kino's descent from those human qualities he once displayed.

Steinbeck illustrates this through a number of events, such as when Kino attacks the trackers. In this instance, Kino moves from being capable of murder for self-defense to a more cold-blooded killing. Kino kills the three men out of fear and instinct and not because of any tangible threat they pose to him.

Steinbeck also shows the loss of human qualities within Kino when he crawls naked to find the trackers so that his white clothes will not expose him. He loses the final vestiges of humanity and society to become even more animalistic. This descent is particularly ironic when considering the death of Coyotito. Kino behaves as an animal so that he can protect himself and his family, but Coyotito dies when the child is mistaken for a coyote pup.

Coyotito plays a significant role in this chapter as a reminder of the serene domestic environment that Kino and Juana once had and as a danger for them. In the savage wilderness where Kino and Juana find themselves, Coyotito serves as their one reminder of society and civilization. Coyotito also represents the hope that Kino and Juana have for the future; it is the infant child who will benefit most from the pearl, according to his parents' plans, and he thus symbolizes the advantages that the pearl may bring..

Once again, Steinbeck keeps the adversaries who pursue Kino and Juana anonymous in order to preserve their symbolic connotations. The bighorn sheep trackers may not even be pursuing Kino and Juana; they are more important for how Kino and Juana perceive them than their actual personalities. Whether or not they are actually a threat, Kino is so assured that they are dangerous that he murders them before they have a chance to strike.

In contrast to the savage and brutal Kino, Juana becomes stronger through the suffering she faces. She reveals herself to be dedicated to her husband even at the most dire moments, demanding that he not break up their family despite the practical advantages. Furthermore, it is Juana who remains awake at night, guarding Kino and Coyotito as Kino sleeps. Steinbeck juxtaposes Kino with Juana; while the man becomes more instinctual and animalistic, the woman retains her particularly human qualities. While Kino becomes suspicious and paranoid, when he looks "for weakness in her face, for fear or irresolution . . . there is none."

The return of Kino and Juana to La Paz is anticlimactic, yet contains some degree of ironic horror. Kino returns to La Paz with the one possession that he desperately wanted, a rifle, but has lost his child and rejects the pearl. His rejection of the pearl fully demonstrates the horror that the pearl has wrought upon him. Steinbeck constructs Kino's return to La Paz as an event that brings Kino back to the family-centered ideals with which he began the story, but his recollection of the Song of the Family has a significant undercurrent of defiance and anger. His family has been destroyed, yet he clings to that ideal, for it is all that remains for him.

The Pearl is therefore a parable with an uncertain meaning at best and a morbidly determinist one at worst. The story does seem to warn against attempting to improve one's social situation, recalling Juan Tomas' story of the pearl agent who stole the townspeople's pearls. Although it seems to indict Kino for his attempts to gain the fortune that the pearl offers, it offers equal if not greater censure to the elites of La Paz who attempt to exploit Kino and thwart his attempts to sell the pearl. Even if Steinbeck does not intend the story to be a critique of Kino for his behavior, the story has a decidedly deterministic viewpoint that implies that Kino and Juana could do nothing to improve their situation.

Perhaps the most valid critique that Steinbeck offers in the pearl concerns the effects that the newfound chance for riches has on Kino, who replaces human, civilized values with an obsessive preoccupation with the pearl and suspicion of those around him. Steinbeck criticizes the idea that the pearl has become Kino's soul, demonstrating that there are far greater losses that Kino can face. Yet where the story remains problematic is that the hope that the pearl brings is never tangible; calamities occur nearly immediately for Juana and Kino, making the pearl into a simple curse for the family. Kino does not choose to sacrifice his fortune; he chooses to repudiate his pain.

When Kino throws the pearl into the ocean, he discards a meaningless object. The pearl has no value in the sense that, without Coyotito, the pearl has no power to provide for a better future for Kino and Juana, who could gain only simple material items from their fortune. Kino's repudiation of the pearl is an empty event, for he does not make a meaningful sacrifice. He instead rids himself of an unwanted object that causes him pain. As a parable, The Pearl is an empty one, merely choosing to heap tragedy upon its protagonists and forcing them into pain and agony without offering them an alternate option or any possibility for hope.