The Pearl

by: John Steinbeck

Chapter 3

Summary Chapter 3

Because his pearl is worth so much money, Kino believes it offers him a chance to realize his ambitious dreams and free himself from the shackles of colonialism. But what keeps Kino from fulfilling his ambitions is his lack of knowledge. Kino may be able to pay the doctor to heal his son, but he is ignorant as to whether he is making the right choice—perhaps the doctor is in fact poisoning his son. Kino is well aware of his predicament, and his desire for his son to obtain an education shows Kino’s recognition that education provides the only possible escape from colonial oppression. But in his single-minded pursuit of success and wealth for his son, Kino abandons the nurturing aspects of his fatherly duty. Kino leaves Juana alone to care for the ailing Coyotito while he, Kino, focuses his attentions on finding a place to conceal the pearl.

As Kino shifts his focus to providing for his son in material rather than emotional ways, he makes a corresponding shift from peaceful coexistence in his village to violent, paranoid suspicion of his neighbors. Now that Kino has acquired wealth, he is obligated to defend that wealth from potential usurpers. Ultimately, this shift in preoccupation demonstrates that wealth has a dehumanizing effect on those who possess it, such as the doctor and Kino, and on those who desire it, such as the intruder who comes to steal the pearl. The intruder is described in vague, inhuman terms that portray him as an unidentifiable mass of clothing. Kino even refers to him as “the thing,” as though he were a plague sent against Kino rather than another human being. At this point in the story, however, only Juana seems to recognize that the pearl is an evil instrument that will bring her family pain and heartache.