The Pearl

by: John Steinbeck

Evil

Quotes Evil
But Kino beat and stomped the enemy until it was only a fragment and a moist place in the dirt.

Here, the narrator explains how moments too late to matter, Kino defeats the enemy—the scorpion that has stung Coyotito—which introduces evil into their lives. The unexpected appearance of the scorpion suggests that evil can come anytime, with no warning and by pure bad luck. In killing the scorpion, Kino attempts to prevail over evil, but he fails to stop the scorpion’s poison from spreading throughout his son. This scene foreshadows the way that evil will spread through the town as a result of Kino’s discovery of the pearl.

The poison sacs of the town began to manufacture venom, and the town swelled and puffed with the pressure of it.

The narrator describes the effects the discovery of the pearl has on the community. Almost as soon as people in the community learn about Kino’s discovery of the enormous pearl, the twin evils of greed and envy begin to possess the residents. The jealousy they feel overwhelms happiness for Kino’s good fortune because they want the pearl for themselves. Early in the story, only the doctor demonstrated such selfishness but now everyone, from the beggars to the shopkeepers to the pearl dealers, wants to gain from Kino’s pearl. This new mood pervades the fabric of the town and will keep spreading to Kino’s village and the surrounding areas.

The music had gone out of Kino’s head, but now, thinly, slowly, the melody of the morning, the music of evil, of the enemy sounded, but it was faint and weak.

The narrator explains that as the members of the village and the nearby city surround Kino in his hut, he senses a change taking place. Whereas he normally hears the Song of the Family, celebrating the placidity and comfort of his domestic sphere, now he begins to hear music that suggests impending danger. Kino finds himself unable to pinpoint exactly whence this new song emanates. His confusion makes sense because once word of the pearl gets out, the evil could come from anyone. Everyone wants a piece of his wealth and good fortune.

The canoe of his grandfather, plastered over and over, and a splintered hole broken in it. This was an evil beyond thinking. The killing of a man was not so evil as the killing of a boat.

Here, the narrator explains how Kino responds to finding his canoe has been damaged. Kino and Juana plan to use his canoe to journey to the capital, but instead, they find the vessel brutally destroyed. This vandalism symbolizes the evil unleashed by the greed surrounding the pearl. Canoes represent fishermen’s only means to a livelihood and to gain any wealth. Since canoes cannot be replaced, to take away the canoe means to take away a man’s ability to support his family and fulfill his societal role. Canoes also represent the continuity of the generations. Seen in this light, the destruction of Kino’s boat represents a dual attack: on the individual and his way of life as well as on his future family.