The different faces of the main character in ‘The Pearl’

Saturday October 7 2017

A look at the themes, the characters and their

A look at the themes, the characters and their application in John Steinbeck’s book 'The Pearl'. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JANLYDIA WANJIRU MWANGIi

The Pearl by John Steinbeck reveals Kino, the main character, as a native American living in a village near La Paz.

His wife is known as Juana and he has an only child, Coyotito.

The first chapter provides a vivid description of this community. Realistic fantasy is evident in Kino’s life upon discovery of the great pearl. It is a wish-fulfilment plot because through the pearl, there is a possibility to fulfil his dreams. His dreams are the dreams of the village.

The beginning of the novel reveals the first type of Kino — kind, focused and caring.

He is a dreamer who believes that one day he will fish a pearl that will change his life, a dream supported by Juana, his wife.

The author also limits the setting to the Gulf of California, in a village and in a town. In the town, people are individualistic.

Therefore, when the doctor rejects Kino’s pearls as payment to treat Coyotito, it is also a rejection of the lower class in society.

Kino’s action of hitting the gate at the doctor’s house foreshadows his determination to get through the ‘gate’ that is the obstacles that have denied his son good treatment.

The blood he sheds symbolises the blood to be shed in his fight for his dream.

Another type of Kino fights the class and race war. Upon the rejection by the doctor, Kino and his wife go pearl fishing and find ‘the greatest pearl of the world’ (page 37).

The pearl symbolically makes Kino visible to the high class people of town.

The doctor visits the village to assist with Coyotito’s illness, while the priest tries to convince Kino to tithe and have a church wedding.

To Kino, illusions move from healing the child to dreams of a better life (page 44-45). The last dream is to acquire a ‘rifle’ to justify his manhood.

To his neighbours in the village, the ‘pearl of the world’ can turn into a curse if Kino is not able to fulfil his dreams and if he leaves his native village.

This view is also supported by Kino’s wife Juana after an attack by people interested in stealing the pearl (page 59,79).

The author at this point focuses on Kino’s emotions and his weakness in making the right choice about the pearl.

Another type of Kino is revealed as one who is not afraid to kill to protect the pearl.

The second attack they encounter leads to a death. The death begins the symbolic elimination of passive elements that may hinder his dreams.

Kino acquires fear for his life and his family and opts to go north to find a better value for the pearl. His neighbours’ predictions come true and death becomes inevitable. The pearl, ironically, becomes their misfortune and part of Kino’s soul (p.g 92).

The social-economic environment of the rich and the poor affects the judgment and decision about his destiny. His flight to the north directs him to his fate while his naivety makes him not to understand that he is controlled by forces of his history that he cannot escape from. As he fights them, his son dies and his dreams come to a disastrous end. They return carrying the ‘rifle’ (manhood desires fulfilled) and the body of Coyotito (page 116). He accepts his old self by throwing back into the sea the great pearl.

 

The writer teaches English and literature at Mwanawikio Secondary School in Gatanga, Murang’a County