The Pearl

The Pearl Video

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Watch the illustrated video summary of the classic novel, The Pearl, by John Steinbeck.

Video Transcript:

The Pearl, by John Steinbeck, is based on the biblical parable of a merchant who finds a pearl of great value, then trades everything he owns to procure it. The jewel is a metaphor for heaven by which man's earthly existence becomes worthless when compared to the joys of living with God. The novella is also an allegory of the American dream, warning of the perils of becoming an overnight success.

Set in the impoverished Mexican-Indian community of La Paz, Mexico, the story begins with the poor but content Kino, who adores his practical wife, Juana, and their infant son, Coyotito. One day a scorpion stings the baby. Kino kills it, but when he and Juana take their son to the doctor, the physician refuses to treat him. The doctor looks down on Kino’s race and knows he cannot pay the full medical bill. When the family leaves, in frustration, Kino smashes his fist on the doctor's gate.

Kino and Juana then take Coyotito down to the sea. There, Juana applies a seaweed poultice on Coyotito's shoulder to treat the scorpion sting. Kino dives for oysters from his old canoe, attempting to find pearls to pay for the doctor’s treatment for his son. Indeed he finds a large oyster, which yields an immense pearl and Kino howls with joy.

Kino’s neighbors are jealous when they hear the news. When Kino’s brother, Juan Tomas, asks him what he will do with his newly found fortune, he envisions getting married to Juana in a church and dressing Coyotito in a yachting cap and sailor suit. He hopes to buy a rifle for himself and send his son to school.

Next, the local priest visits asking Kino to give thanks and to pray for guidance. Then the doctor visits, offering Coyotito additional treatment. After the doctor leaves, Kino wraps the pearl in a rag and buries it in the dirt floor. The doctor returns offering to keep the jewel safe for Kino. Kino refuses, frightened that everyone is after his pearl.

That night, Kino thinks that he hears noises in his hut. He grabs a knife, striking at an intruder in the dark. Afterward, Juana tells Kino that the pearl is evil and insists he throw it away or break it before it destroys them. Kino refuses, saying he will sell it in town the next morning.

After being warned by his brother not to get swindled like their ancestors did, Kino goes to sell his pearl, accompanied by his neighbors. The dealer offers a thousand pesos, but Kino believes it is worth fifty thousand. He can feel the evil around him as other dealers inspect the pearl and offer similar prices. Kino refuses their offers and decides to go to the capital to sell it there.

Back in their village the townspeople argue whether Kino should have accepted the money, which was still more than he would have ever seen in his life. He buries the pearl again in his hut and becomes more terrified of the world around him. Juan Tomas tells Kino that he has defied not only the pearl buyers, but the whole structure of life, and he fears for his brother’s safety.

Later that night Kino is attacked by thieves after investigating noises outside his hut. Juana once again tells him that the pearl is evil and they must destroy it. When Kino refuses, she attempts to take the pearl and throw it into the ocean, but he finds Juana on the beach and uncharacteristically beats her for doing so. Then, a group of men accost Kino and knock the pearl from his hand. Juana watches from a distance and sees that he has stabbed another man out of greed and desperation.

Juana finds the pearl, and then she and Kino decide to escape. He orders her to bring Coyotito and all of the corn they have. Then, Kino finds that his canoe has been damaged and their house is torn up and the outside set afire. Kino and Juana hide at Juan Tomas’ before setting out for the north the next night. Juan Tomas reminds his brother that he should have sold the pearl, but Kino insists the pearl has become his soul.

The family travels through the night, then rests during the day, then hides when Kino suspects they are being followed. Bighorn sheep trackers are following them.
The trackers believe Coyotito’s cries are those of a coyote pup. One shoots in the direction of the baby’s cries. Then Kino steals the rifle, viciously killing all three trackers with the gun and his knife. Afterwards, he can hear nothing but he cry of death coming from the cave.

Juana and Kino return to La Paz defeated. Kino carries a rifle that he had always hoped for, stolen from one of the trackers he killed, while Juana carries the dead Coyotito. Nobody speaks to them and even Juan Tomas cannot bear to say a word. Now, when Kino looks at the pearl, he only sees the image of his dead son, Coyotito. Kino throws the now meaningless object into the ocean, relieving himself of the evil once and for all.