The Pearl

by: John Steinbeck

Community

Quotes Community
The thing had become a neighborhood affair. They made a quick soft-footed procession into the center of the town, first Juana and Kino, . . . then all the neighbors with the children trotting on the flanks.

Community, as represented by the neighbors who trail Kino and Juana to town when the scorpion stings Coyotito, exists as a central theme in The Pearl. Prior to Kino’s discovery of the pearl, the neighbors act as one body, speak with one voice, and share the same traditional values. In this scene, they show their support for Kino and Juana. The pearl, however, brings a new awareness to the neighbors. As readers will learn, Kino and Juana will use the wealth from the pearl to transform their lives and leave behind the others. Such knowledge leads to greed, which rips apart the tightly woven community.

Now, Kino’s people had sung of everything that happened or existed . . . and the songs were all in Kino and in his people—every song that had ever been made, even the ones forgotten.

Throughout The Pearl, Kino and Juana sing the same melodies that have been passed down among their people, and in this scene, the narrator explains how Kino hears an ancient song in his head as he looks for a pearl that might save his son’s life. The members of the community all share the same songs, which accompany all the significant events that could happen in their lives. This description further reinforces the idea that at the beginning of the book, Kino and Juana are essentially interchangeable with their neighbors: They all live simply as their people have for hundreds of years.

“My friends will protect me.” “Only so long as they are not in danger or discomfort from it,” said Juan Tomás.

Kino’s conversation with his brother, Juan Tomás, demonstrates the unexpected fragility of the bonds of the community that the pearl exposes. Kino’s defiance of the pearl dealers represents a strike for all members of the community, but any success—defined by selling his pearl for a fair price to a dealer in the capital—will benefit only Kino and his family. Kino sees no issue with this. Juan Tomás, on the other hand, realizes that while the community has always acted as one entity, the neighbors now face an unprecedented situation and may not all support Kino.

Everyone in La Paz remembers the return of the family; . . . It is an event that happened to everyone.

At the end of The Pearl, the narrator explains that the community experiences Kino and Juana’s return, once again, as a unit. This day becomes a momentous one, concluding the drama that pitted neighbors against one another. Not only can Kino and Juana reunite with the community if they choose to do so, but also their experience takes on broader, mythological proportions. Future members of the community will hear the story of Kino and Juana and learn a powerful lesson about the folly of greed and evil.