The Pearl

The Pearl Summary and Analysis of Chapter 5

Kino senses movement near him, but it is only Juana who arises silently from beside him. Kino sees her near the hanging box where Coyotito lay, and then watches her go out the doorway. Kino begins to feel a great sense of rage as he hears her footsteps going toward the shore; Juana is going to throw the pearl back into the ocean. Kino chases Juana, then strikes her in the face with his clenched fist and kicks her in the side. He then turns away from her and walks up the beach. Juana knows that when Kino said that he is a man, he meant that he was "half-insane and half-god" and knows as a woman that "the mountain would stand while the man broke himself; that the sea would surge while the man drowned in it."

While walking on the beach, men accost Kino in search of the pearl, which is knocked from his hand and lands on the pathway. Juana soon sees Kino limping toward her with a stranger whose throat has been slit. She finds the pearl for Kino, and tells him that they must go away before daylight. Kino says that he struck to save his life, but Juana says that this does not matter. He orders her to get Coyotito and all of the corn they have. Kino finds his canoe with a splintered hole in the bottom. He rushes home to find Juana and Coyotito, but Juana tells Kino that their house was torn up and the floor dug, and someone set fire to the outside.

Juana and Coyotito go to Juan Tomas and Apolonia. When Kino tells about the man he has killed, Juan Tomas says that it is the pearl and he should have sold it. Kino begs his brother to hide them until nightfall. Kino tells Juan Tomas that he will head north. Kino says that he will not give up the pearl, because "if I give it up I shall lose my soul."


Steinbeck builds a sense of paranoia and imminent tragedy for Juana and Kino during this chapter, in which anonymous enemies threaten their safety. The men who attack Kino are never named and their origins are never revealed; although Kino suspects that they are the agents of the pearl dealers. This anonymity is significant, for the men who assault Kino symbolize a more generalized Œevil' than the specific villainy of the pearl dealer or the doctor.

This continues the string of various calamities that occur to Juana and Kino; they lose their boat and their home while defending themselves. These two losses are significant, for the canoe symbolizes the ability that Kino has to provide for and protect his family and the home symbolizes the idea of the family that once gave Kino great comfort. By this point in the story, Juan Tomas joins Juana in warning Kino of the problems of the pearl, but Juana's predictions of disaster have already been partially fulfilled. When Juan Tomas tells Kino "go with God" when Kino prepares to venture to the capital, this statement has a sense of impending doom; Steinbeck makes it very clear that a tragic end for Kino and Juana is imminent.

Steinbeck also makes the explicit point that the greatest damage caused by the pearl is the change that it effects within Kino. The caring father and partner of the first chapter at this point in the story attacks Juana when she attempts to take the pearl. Juana realizes the change in her husband from a normal man to one with a questionable grip on sanity. It is ironic that, when Kino declares that he is a man, he begins to act "half insane and half god," thus negating the qualities that define him as a man. Steinbeck creates a tone of futility about Kino's enterprise; as the rational and level-headed Juana realizes, Kino is a man raging against an obstacle as insurmountable as a mountain or a storm, and his struggles will only cause him to destroy himself.

Kino even finds himself capable of murder to defend himself; whether Kino is capable of a more cold-blooded killing still remains questionable. Kino's comment that the pearl has become his soul is the defining statement of his condition. It shows that Kino has ceased to be in some level human; he cannot consider normal human needs and emotions, but defiantly focuses on the pearl.

The reaction of the community to the tragedies that occur to Kino and Juana is significant. While the neighbors followed every detail of Kino's life once the pearl promised to bring him fortune and renown, during this time his neighbors remain silent. Only Juan Tomas and Apolonia hide Juana and Kino but do so reluctantly. While Kino's neighbors have commented on all of the events in previous chapters, they do not manifest any reaction to the attacks on Kino and Juana.