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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Pearl by John Steinbeck-Free Online Plot Summary
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THE NOVEL

THE PLOT-SHORT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

Kino, a poor Indian fisherman, lives on the Gulf of California with his wife Juana and infant son Coyotito. Their simple hut is made of brush, and the couple sleeps on mats thrown on the dirt floor, while Coyotito sleeps in a hanging box. Like others in their poor village, they depend on nature for survival. Despite the poverty, Kino is happy, honest, and hardworking.

As The Pearl begins, dawn is breaking. Kino watches the sun rise and listens to the sounds of the morning. In his mind, Kino hears the Song of the Family-an internal message that tells him all is well.

But within moments, a dangerous situation develops. A poisonous scorpion stings Coyotito, and the baby's screams draw people from all over the village. Juana insists that the doctor be called, but Kino knows the physician is of Spanish descent and considers himself above treating poor Indians. This does not satisfy Juana, who announces that if the doctor will not visit the village, then they will go directly to the doctor's house. Her independent spirit amazes the villagers, who join in a procession that accompanies Kino and Juana to the wealthy doctor's home. But the doctor refuses to treat Coyotito because Kino is too poor. Kino is so angry that he smashes his fist against the doctor's gate.

Later that day, while Kino and Juana are fishing in the Gulf, Kino finds an enormous pearl-the Pearl of the World-and cries out in joy. He believes the pearl will make him rich and enable him to provide security for his family. But Kino discovers otherwise. The pearl stirs envy in the villagers, and that night Kino is attacked in his hut by a thief. The following day, he tries to sell the pearl to buyers in town, but he is offered only a small sum of money for it. The buyers all work for the same man. They know the pearl is worth a fortune but hope to buy it cheaply by pretending that it is worth little.

In his anger, Kino says he will sell his pearl in the capital city, where he believes he'll get a fair price. This amazes the villagers because Kino has never traveled so far. After dark that evening, Kino is attacked again. Juana is sure the pearl is evil and will destroy the family. During the night, she quietly removes it from the spot where Kino has hidden it and tries to throw it back into the ocean. He stops her before she succeeds and beats her for trying. As he returns to the hut, Kino is attacked again, this time by two men. He kills one of them, and the other escapes.


Because of the killing, Kino knows that he will be hunted as a murderer. As a result, he and Juana must leave the village immediately. Before they can escape, however, their canoe is destroyed and their hut is burned. They hide until the next night in the hut of Kino's brother, Juan Tomas. The following evening, Kino and Juana begin their flight to the capital. Soon they realize they are being pursued by three people, so they flee up the mountain and hide in a small cave. Their pursuers pitch camp in a clearing just below the cave. Kino decides the only way to survive is for him to kill the person on guard, take his rifle, and kill the other two, who are sleeping.

Kino goes to the pursuers' camp and is about to attack them when his infant son Coyotito cries out. Kino knows that he must spring immediately at his enemies, but he is a moment too late and one of them shoots toward the cave. There is a struggle and Kino kills all three of his enemies. The earlier shot has, however, killed Coyotito. The following afternoon the villagers witness the return of Kino and Juana, carrying the rifle and their dead child. Without a word to anyone, they walk through the village to the shore. Kino lays down the rifle, takes out the pearl, and throws it into the water.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Pearl by John Steinbeck-Free Online Plot Summary
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