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

Kino awakens in the darkness as Juana quietly leaves the hut with something in her hand. Enraged, Kino follows her to the shore. But when she sees him coming, Juana begins to run. Kino grabs her arm before she can throw the pearl into the water. Then, hissing like a snake, he beats her. When she falls against the rocks, he kicks her viciously in the side. This is the same Kino who had so tenderly loved her two days earlier and had wondered at her strength.

What has changed him? What makes them both do what they are doing? Juana wants to expose the dream-filled destruction she sees Kino driven toward. But she doesn't fight back, because submission is part of her role as Kino's wife. When Kino beats her, he is defending his manliness and his dream, for the two have become one.

NOTE: KINO'S DREAM

Kino's dream has challenged the system. In Chapter IV, Steinbeck showed you the reflexive response of the town, the colonial animal, to the pearl. In the deepening conflict, Kino will lose everything that connects him to this town. The purpose of Chapter V is to show Kino's isolation. If you keep in mind the metaphor (comparison) of the town as a colonial animal, this separation can mean only one thing-destruction. Kino's battle with Juana foreshadows the death of his family. He is now like the deviant from a closely interrelated ecological system. He is separated from his natural environment. From now on, he will lack the protection of his kin and the strength of his tradition. He is a free agent, flung into the world to face ruthless predators.

Kino is attacked again on the path to his hut-this time, by more than one assailant. In self-defense, Kino kills one of them, and with this action, Juana realizes that their old way of life is ended. She finds the pearl in the path just before seeing the two men lying there, one of whom is bleeding from the throat. She sponges Kino's wounds and revives him after dragging the dead man into the bushes. As Kino recovers consciousness, she tells him what has happened, and they realize they must leave the village before daybreak.


By killing a man, Kino has crossed a threshold; there is now no turning back to the old life. Before this, Kino could have sold the pearl and given up his dream of changing the way things are. In his quest for his dream, Kino rebels against both the natural and the social system-and tries to impose his own will. This attempted revolt will bring Kino ever closer to destruction.

Kino instructs Juana to prepare Coyotito and pack some food while he readies the canoe. As he stumbles down to the beach, he is horrified to see that his canoe has been destroyed.

NOTE: THE CANOE

For Kino, as for any fisherman, the destruction of his boat is an immeasurable loss. Not only does it mean the loss of his prized possession and his means to an income, but it also means the loss of a part of his heritage. The psychological impact of the loss of his canoe is as significant for Kino as the dead man in the path was for Juana. The old way of life is over. Filled with rage, Kino now becomes like an animal, living only to protect himself and his family. (But notice that even in his rage, it never occurs to Kino to take another's boat.) Why does Steinbeck use this animal comparison? Does Kino really have to become like an animal to preserve his dream of a better life as a man? Is Steinbeck necessarily implying that animal traits are lower than human ones?

Juana scurries down the path with the news that their hut is on fire. She and Kino make plans to hide in his brother's house until the next night, when they will leave for the mountains. Juan Tomas tells him that there is a devil in the pearl, but he agrees to help Kino. He spends the day telling neighbors that Kino has fled the village. From each visit, he returns with something borrowed that will help his brother-a few beans, some salt, and a knife.

That night, before the moon rises, Kino sets forth with his family. Once more, Juan Tomas asks Kino to consider giving up the pearl. But Kino answers that the pearl has become his soul, and that if he gives it up, he will lose his soul.

NOTE: THE PEARL AS KINO'S SOUL

Kino has become so obsessed with the pearl that nothing else matters. Every breath is devoted to making his dream come true, at the risk of placing his family in grave danger. In a material sense, a person dies when his soul leaves his body. If Kino were to throw away his soul, he would die spiritually as well. His soul-that is, the pearl and his dream-is all that holds him to life. Why do you think Kino considers the pearl as his soul? Do you see a religious meaning here? Has Kino substituted a dream of fulfillment on earth for the traditional Christian concept of salvation after death? Some readers think that the dream of the pearl has corrupted Kino's true soul, driving him to sacrifice his family and reject his past. Others see the pearl as Kino's only hope for dignity as a man. In this sense, the pearl would be a fitting metaphor for his soul.

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