The Pearl

by: John Steinbeck

Juana

Kino’s wife, Juana, is more reflective and more practical than Kino. She prays for divine aid when Coyotito’s wound leaves Kino impotent with rage, and she also has the presence of mind to salve the wound with a seaweed poultice. Juana is loyal and submissive, obeying her husband as her culture dictates, but she does not always agree with his actions. Like Kino, Juana is at first seduced by the greed the pearl awakens, but she is much quicker than Kino to recognize the pearl as a potential threat. In fact, Juana comes to view the pearl as a symbol of evil.

As the novella progresses, Juana becomes certain that the limitations, rules, and customs of her society must be upheld. Whereas Kino seeks to transform his existence, Juana believes that their lives will be better if they keep things as they are. Kino can see only what they have to gain from the pearl, but Juana can see also what they stand to lose, and she wisely prefers to protect what she has rather than sacrifice it all for a dream. Juana thus serves an important function in the novella—she counterbalances Kino’s enthusiasm and reminds the reader that Kino’s desire to make money is dangerous. Juana also symbolizes the family’s domestic happiness; the scene in which Kino beats her for trying to cast off the pearl thus represents Kino’s tragic break from the family he longs to support.