The Pearl By John Steinbeck Character Analysis Juana

Juana's main function is that of Kino's wife. As a member of a primitive race, the woman is the helpmate of the man. She prepares Kino's breakfast for him while he sits outside the brush house, and she attends to Coyotito's needs at the same time. She seems, at first, to be completely subservient to her husband and without any life of her own. She seems to be only the hardworking and loyal wife to a simple fisherman, and she does not complain. about her lowly state. Yet, when the scorpion bites Coyotito, there suddenly emerges a new and different Juana. Even though she prays both to some primitive gods and also to the Virgin Mary before Coyotito is bitten, as soon as the scorpion bites him, she springs to the baby's aid, grabbing him up and sucking the poison from his wound. She is much more effective and practical than is Kino, who expends his fury by grinding the scorpion to a pulp. Juana is much more efficient as she takes control, and to the astonishment of the entire village, she announces that she wants a doctor for the baby — a thing unheard of because the doctor has never visited the peasant village. When she is told that the doctor will not come, without hesitation, she decides that they must take Coyotito to the doctor — an event so strange that the entire village follows along behind them.

On the basis of the above actions, we can see that Juana is not merely the obeying, subservient wife. Instead, there is a determination and an assertiveness which is not usual in women of this type. Her fierce and passionate love for her son is immediately apparent in her actions. Later her hatred for the pearl is apparent because she knows that the pearl threatens her family and, thus, it threatens her entire existence. Obedient as she usually is, when her world is threatened, she can become as determined and as fierce as a lioness.

Juana, like the other natives, is a product of two civilizations. She is filled with superstitious belief, as is noted when the scorpion bites Coyotito, and when she prays, she invokes the help of her native gods, and, for good measure, she also utters one Hail Mary. When Juana discovers that Kino has found the Pearl of the World, she pretends that she does not see this wonderful object because she fears that if she looks and shows too much pleasure, it might displease the gods in power. She believes that it is not "good to want a thing too much. It sometimes drives the luck away." Likewise, she is instinctively afraid of many things — the evil figures lurking in the dark, the evil powers of the pearl, and many other unknown fears. Yet, when her husband is attacked, she picks up a stone and attacks the "evil ones" with all of her fury.

Not all of her actions, however, are based on superstitions. When Coyotito is wounded, she knows that the poultice made from seaweed will be beneficial to him. Here, she uses old and ancient knowledge in order to help her son.

While Juana will revolt from the authority of her husband, as seen when she attempts to throw the pearl back into the Gulf, yet when Kino asserts his power and strikes her, she does not complain — in fact, she accepts his beating of her as proper and in the right order of things. But when he wants to leave her during their escape, she will not allow it even though Kino maintains that it is for her and Coyotito's safety. She is wise enough to know that if the trackers find Kino, they would also find her, and she and Coyotito will be killed.

After the death of Coyotito, Juana walks beside her husband for the first time; their suffering has apparently made them more equal. Yet, when Kino gives the pearl to his wife to throw back into the Gulf, she refuses; symbolically, this act restores to her husband his sense of manhood by allowing him the right to destroy that for which he fought and suffered.

In conclusion, Juana is the prototype of the primitive native wife — strong, loyal, obedient, yet independent and courageous when the occasion demands such qualities. She possesses all of the values which allow this type of person to endure in spite of all obstacles.

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Before they open the large oyster that will yield the great pearl, Kino and Juana




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