The Pearl

by: John Steinbeck

Juana Quotes

Quotes Juana Quotes
Under her breath Juana repeated an ancient magic to guard against such evil, and on top of that she muttered a Hail Mary between clenched teeth.

The narrator explains that, as the scorpion descends toward Coyotito, Juana calls upon both her traditional customs and her religious beliefs to protect him. Her prayers reflect the forces that shape her world—those from indigenous culture and those of the European colonists. Further, instead of springing into action, as Kino does, Juana makes her invocation, indicating her belief that she and her baby are subject to the vagaries of chance.

Kino had wondered often at the iron in his patient, fragile wife. She, who was obedient and respectful and cheerful and patient, she could arch her back in child pain with hardly a cry. She could stand fatigue and hunger almost better than Kino himself. In the canoe she was like a strong man.

As described by Kino, Juana represents a perfect mix of strength and tenderness. She can do the work of a man, if needed, but also knows her place as a woman. As the book progresses, however, Juana continues to grow in strength. Though she finds greater ability to exert her will, ultimately she fails to convince Kino to rid their family of the pearl until its destructive force culminates in the death of Coyotito.

Now the tension which had been growing in Juana boiled up to the surface and her lips were thin. “This thing is evil,” she cried harshly. “This pearl is like a sin! It will destroy us,” and her voice rose shrilly. “Throw it away, Kino. Let us break it between stones. Let us bury it and forget the place. Let us throw it back into the sea. It has brought evil, Kino, my husband, it will destroy us.” And in the firelight her lips and her eyes were alive with her fear.

After the attempted theft of the pearl leads to Kino’s injuries, Juana recognizes that the pearl will only bring them sorrow and misery. In begging her husband to get rid of it, she attempts to return their life back to its former rhythms. Since Coyotito has been cured of the scorpion’s sting, she has everything she needs again, but unfortunately, Kino has become lost to his dreams of the future.

Juana watched him with worry, but she knew him and she knew she could help him best by being silent and by being near. And as though she too could hear the Song of Evil, she fought it, signing softly the melody of the family, of the safety and warmth and wholeness of the family.

Throughout the novel, Juana proves herself a strong, capable helpmate, yet because of her gender, she remains subordinate to Kino in their family. Here instead of attempting to insert herself into Kino’s planning, she tries to alleviate his worry by lending quiet support. She also acts in a manner similar to Kino, singing the song that calls upon some undefined spirit that helps their family.

Kino, this pearl is evil. Let us destroy it before it destroys us. Let us crush it between two stones. Let us—let us throw it back in the sea where it belongs. Kino, it is evil, it is evil!

After Kino is attacked outside of their hut, Juana begs him to get rid of the pearl. Like Kino, she sees a new future in the pearl, but that future doesn’t match the future Kino envisions. Instead, Juana understands that the pearl has the power to change their lives for the worse, for example, by turning their neighbors against them.

All of the time Juana had been trying to rescue something of the old peace, of the time before the pearl. But now it was gone, and there was no retrieving it. And knowing this, she abandoned the past instantly. There was nothing to do but to save themselves.

When Kino kills a man who tries to take the pearl, Juana changes course on what they should do next. She no longer wants to get rid of the pearl but accepts that the pearl now represents their only hope. The pearl has brought a spreading evil into their lives and community. Now she and Kino are pariahs in their own home, and their best option for survival is to run away with the pearl and sell the thing.

Here is your pearl. Can you understand? You have killed a man. We must go away. They will come for us, can you understand? We must be gone before the daylight comes.

Juana explains to Kino why they must flee. For a brief moment, Juana and Kino see their roles reversed. Kino, weakened and distraught because he killed the man who attacked him, needs Juana to tell him what they need to do. She realizes that her formerly close-knit community will never listen to Kino’s explanation of self-defense. The greed the pearl has brought out in their neighbors transforms Juana and Kino into enemies.

Do you think they would let me live? Do you think they would let the little one here live?

While on the road to Loreto, Kino contemplates giving himself up to the trackers, but Juana knows that would put her and Coyotito at risk and she explains as much. Unlike Kino, Juana understands that the pearl has made them targets of violence and greed. They see their only hope for survival as getting away from anyone who knows they possess such an object of wealth.

Kino’s hand shook a little, and he turned slowly to Juana and held the pearl out to her. She stood beside him, still holding her dead bundle over her shoulder. She looked at the pearl in his hand for a moment and then she looked into Kino’s eyes and said softly, “No, you.”

After Juana and Kino return to their village, she insists that he throw the pearl back in the sea. This scene shows how Juana has changed to become a much stronger presence in their relationship. She makes the decision about who will fulfill this crucial action. She understands that Kino—whose refusal to part with the pearl resulted in Coyotito’s death—needs to commit this action himself in order to solidify his rejection of the pearl.