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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Pearl by John Steinbeck-Free Online Plot Summary
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CHAPTER VI (continued)

As the trackers approach, Kino plans to leap at the one with the rifle, then kill the other two. Juana muffles Coyotito's noises while the trackers stop at the swept spot. After closely examining the sand, the trackers move on, look back, then continue their journey. Kino knows that they will return, and he panics like a trapped animal. Flight is the only solution. Finally, Juana provokes him into making a decision: they will go to the mountains.

They hurry frantically toward the high place, not bothering to cover their tracks. Time is crucial since the trackers will soon discover the broken twigs and crushed plants. Kino wants Juana to remain in the crevice while he plants false signs that will lead the trackers further up into the mountains. But she refuses to leave him. So they decide to move in zigzags instead of a straight line, leaving a multitude of signs to confuse the trackers.

The flight to the mountains suggests several meanings. One is that Kino's action is a natural one. "And Kino ran for the high place, as nearly all animals do when they are pursued." Another level of meaning comes from the image of the "naked granite mountains... standing monolithic against the sky." The image is a reminder of the implacable forces of both nature and society against which the Indians must struggle to survive. Some readers find a reference to another, older story of a father who takes his son to the mountains. They see the story of Kino and Coyotito as a reversal of the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac. (See Note on page 50.)

As the sun falls, they climb higher to a bubbling spring where animals come to drink. Kino knows that the trackers, needing water, will also plan to come here. But that's a risk he'll have to take. From this altitude, Kino spots the trackers far down the slope. They appear no bigger than swarming ants.

NOTE: ANT IMAGERY

This is the third time that ants have appeared in The Pearl. Steinbeck uses them to show the parallels between animal and human behavior, and to portray the relative insignificance of individual human beings in the scheme of the universe.

Juana takes a supply of water and heads for a cave up above. Meanwhile, Kino runs up the mountain, then down again, "clawing and tearing at the ferns and wild grape" as he goes. By misleading the trackers into climbing higher, he and Juana will be able to escape down the mountain. His one fear is that Coyotito's cries will reveal their location. But Juana says this won't happen.

By dusk, the trackers arrive at the water spring. Kino watches them from the cave entrance and realizes that they intend to set up camp. This is bad news since he and Juana know they won't be able to keep Coyotito quiet for the entire night. Kino has no choice but to kill the trackers.

Kino touches his son on the head, then feels Juana's cheek. In preparation for the murder, Kino strips the last remains of civilization-his clothes-from his body. Kino's naked, brown body now camouflages him. He must move slowly in order not to dislodge a stone. This requires great stamina-the courage of an animal on the prowl. As Kino reaches the trackers' camp, his heart thunders as he prepares for the attack.

Just as Kino is about to strike, the moon makes him very visible. He hesitates for a moment-a tragic mistake-and the baby cries, drawing the attention of the tracker on duty. In a bitter play on the baby's name, the trackers discuss whether it is a human cry or that of a coyote with her litter. The man with the rifle, taking no chances, raises the rifle to shoot. Kino springs, but he is a moment too late. The rifle goes off before Kino reaches him.


NOTE: ABRAHAM AND ISAAC

Some readers see the fate of Coyotito in the mountains as a reminder of the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac-in reverse. In that story, Abraham was instructed by God to take his son to the mountain and sacrifice him. When Abraham showed God that he was willing to make the sacrifice, God substituted a ram for Isaac and rewarded Abraham. "I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.... "(Genesis 22:15-18) In The Pearl, the son is sacrificed; God has not interceded. And there seems little chance of Kino's descendants overcoming their enemies. Unlike Abraham, however, Kino is denied the chance to save his people.

In a frenzy of rage, Kino takes on a machinelike quality and kills all three trackersone with his knife, one with a blow to the head with the rifle butt, and one slowly and deliberately with shots from the rifle. After the sounds of the killing fade away, Kino hears mournful sounds. It is Juana-something terrible has happened to Coyotito. His head has been blown away.

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