The Pearl By John Steinbeck Character Analysis Kino

One of the great appeals of The Pearl lies in the beautiful and simplistic way that Kino is characterized. However sophisticated one might become, there is always something that one finds appealing in the "noble savage" or the "pristine innocence" of people like Kino, whose life is lived close to the simple harmony of the natural world and who is not affected by the hypocrisies and artificialities of the "civilized world." For example, Kino's simple breakfast of corncake and pulque contrasts well with the opulent decadence of the doctor's breakfast of cocoa served to him in bed in a dainty china cup.

Kino's profession — a simple pearl diver — requires him to be constantly close to nature, and he is constantly affected by natural events; for example, when the sea is rough or the climate is unsuitable, Kino cannot practice his trade. Even though he is on the lowest economic rung of society, he still has a deep sense of human dignity. In fact, he is not even fully aware of how much the townspeople despise and exploit all of his people. Only when the outside forces — whether it be the scorpion, the doctor, or the pearl buyers — intrude upon his life does he then become estranged within his natural surrounding. Otherwise, Kino lives a perfectly harmonious life, both socially and environmentally.

The harmony of his life is also evident in his relationship with his wife, in his devotion to his son, in his kinship with his brother, and in his respect for the traditions of the village. Toward Juana, his wife, he is protective and concerned. He would sacrifice his life for her; yet when she crosses him by trying to throw away the pearl, he can be quite severe with her. When they are trying to escape the trackers (in Chapter 6), Kino is constantly concerned about Juana and Coyotito's safety. At one point, he is even willing to allow himself to be captured so as to protect Juana and Coyotito.

Part of Kino's tragedy is that his entire life is built mainly around his love for his son. Earlier, when the scorpion bit his son, Kino felt completely helpless because he had no money and no credibility with the doctor. His frustration was expressed in smashing his fist against the doctor's door. Then, with the discovery of the pearl, Kino immediately thinks of all the advantages which it will provide for his son. For himself, Kino desires no real personal gain (the rifle he dreams of will only enable him to become a better provider for the family). From the total frustration caused by the scorpion's bite to the elation caused by the discovery of the pearl, Kino's thoughts are always directed toward his son's welfare.

In his kinship with his brother and in his respect for the traditions of the village, Kino is seen in a simple but harmonious relationship. There is no strife between him and his brother. To the contrary, when Kino's brush house is burned, his brother, Juan Tomás, hides the entire family all day long and spends his own day going from one neighbor to another to borrow something, which he then gives to Kino. Likewise, Kino has great respect for the traditions of the village. Even though his own canoe has been destroyed and even though there are other canoes on the beach for the taking, he would never consider taking someone else's canoe; to him, a canoe is a part of one's family heritage and, as such, it is sacred. The destruction of his own canoe, then, had to be perpetrated by someone who was not a member of the village.

Kino's basic response to life and his basic emotions are not always expressed directly. For centuries, Kino's ancestors have composed or created songs to express every possible emotion and to fit every possible occasion. Consequently, from the opening to the closing pages, the songs which Kino hears express his own basic emotions. At the beginning of the novel, as he watches Coyotito playing and Juana going about her morning chores, Kino hears the Song of the Family; the mere fact that he hears this song represents the love and contentment that he feels but cannot (or does not) express verbally. Likewise, throughout the section, Kino can express his own fears only by physical actions (smashing his fist on the doctor's door) or by the songs which he hears — the Song of the Enemy, and the Song of Evil, and others.

At the end of the novel, the readers have a sense that through Kino they have experienced all of the emotions common to mankind — the contentment of the family, the joy and elation of discovering a great treasure, the fears when the family's lives are threatened, the anxiety of being hunted, and the tragedy of losing a loved one. As Kino passes through these emotions, he emerges to represent for us a type of universal person — one who has passed from innocence through evil, and yet has survived to reaffirm his manhood by voluntarily throwing the pearl back into the Gulf.

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




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