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The Pearl Study Guide

The Pearl By John Steinbeck

Kino, his wife Juana, and his infant son Coyotito live in La Paz, Mexico. Kino watches Coyotito as he sleeps, but fails to catch a scorpion before it stings Coyotito. They take their baby to the local doctor, but the family is broke, and the doctor refuses to treat without payment.

The parents take their child to the sea, where Juana makes a seaweed poultice for Coyotito's shoulder, which is swollen. Kino, attempting to make money for his son's care, dives for oysters from his canoe, and finds an immense pearl.

The doctor comes and treats Coyotito. When Kino's brother asks what he will do with the money, Kino describes a dream of getting married to Juana in a church, sending Coyotito to school, and buying a rifle for himself. The doctor returns, insisting more treatment is necessary despite the infant's apparent recovery. When Kino insists he will pay the doctor once the pearl is sold, the doctor tries to discern where the pearl is hidden.

That night, someone breaks into Kino's hut, but Kino drives him away. Juana tells Kino the pearl will destroy them, and Kino insists he will sell it the next day. He goes to do so, but the dealers he speaks with collude to offer him a fraction of it's real value. Determined not to be cheated, Kino decides to take the pearl to the capital and sell it there. More thieves attack in the night, and Juana again complains of the bad fortune that follows the pearl.

Later that night, Juana takes the pearl to get rid of it, but Kino beats her for trying to steal it. Before they can return inside, a gang accosts Kino and knocks the pearl from his hand. Kino fights, and returns to Juana limping and carrying a man whose throat he has slit. Juana finds the pearl and decides that, even if the murder was in self-defense, they must run. When they return home, it has been set on fire. They stay with Kino's brother, determined to go to the capital the next day.

They rest during the day, and travel the next night. Believing they are being followed, they hide and see several trackers passing by them. They run for the mountains, where Juana and the baby hide in a cave while Kino scouts. The trackers hear Coyotito crying and fire shots in their direction - and Kino decends upon them and kills them all.

When he realizes that the first shot actually hit and killed Coyotito, Kino is broken. He and Juana return to La Paz, and throw the pearl back into the ocean.

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