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Free Study Guide-The Pearl by John Steinbeck-Free Online BookNotes
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Chapter 5


Kino wakes up in the dark and sees Juana leaving the house. Realizing what she is trying to do, Kino rushes behind her and wrenches the pearl from her hand just as she is about to throw it into the water. Kino is so incensed at her actions that he hits her hard; she falls into the shallow waves where he kicks her. When he finally controls his rage, he is disgusted with his behavior; he turns to go home alone. On the way, he is again attacked. He slashes out at his attacker with his knife, but he is shoved to the ground and searched. The pearl rolls out of his hand.

In pain, Juana drags herself out of the water and heads home. On the way back to the hut, Juana sees the pearl lying on the ground. She also spies two figures on the ground ahead. She rushes forward and sees that one of them is Kino, now stirring; the other figure is a dead man with a knife planted through him. At this sight, she immediately knows that she and Kino will never again regain the simple peace that they had before finding the pearl; their lives are changed forever due to its evil effects.

When Kino gains consciousness, his first thought goes to the pearl, which he thinks is lost. Juana calms and placates him, showing the found pearl. They both realize that Kino has killed a man, and they must flee. All future thoughts must be on saving themselves. They hide the dead stranger in the brush. Then they quickly pick up Coyotito and rush to the canoe, only to find it with a great hole in the bottom. As the music of evil plays through his head, Kino is filled with rage, but is helpless to do anything about it. The family returns home to find their hut in flames. They go to the house of Kino's brother and implore him to hide them. The village assumes that they have died in the fire.

While Kino and Juana hide, Juan Tomas passes the rumor that his brother must have drowned in the sea since no bones were found in the ashes. He then gathers provisions, which can be taken by Kino and Juana when they finally escape. When he is asked about the pearl, Kino now admits that it is evil, but he is not ready to dispose of it, for "this pearl has become my soul . . . If I give it up I shall lose my soul." Before the moonrise, Kino and Juana, with Coyotito and the pearl, take their leave and head North.


In this chapter, Kino too, submits to the evil effects of the pearl. As a result, the primitive, peaceful family life is further destroyed. When Juana tries to save her husband and her family by attempting to throw the pearl back into the gulf, Kino stops her. He wrestles the pearl out of her hand and savagely knocks her down. Kino's rage at Juana is primitive and chilling; "he struck her in the face with his clenched fist and she fell among the boulders, and he kicked her in the side." A person who has never raised a hand at his wife is now behaving in a bestial manner. In fact in his mindless anger, Kino is almost turning into a wild animal; "his teeth were bared. He hissed at her like a snake."

Juana accepts all this in a "sheeplike" manner. She is forced to accept the pearl in their lives, and therefore, remains mute. Although there has never been much dialogue between them, now even the musical motifs have vanished. There is no song sufficient to convey the depths of their moods and feelings.

It is apparent that as long as Kino possesses the pearl, his life will be in danger. As he returns home, he is again attacked. This time when he defends himself with his knife, he strikes a fatal blow to his attacker. When Juana finds her husband on the ground and sees the dead man nearby, she knows their lives are forever changed. Ironically, along the way she has spied the lost pearl and has retrieved it. Even though Juana had tried to throw the pearl into the sea, now when Kino mourns its loss, she shows the pearl to him. The pearl is now an intrinsic part of their existence. At this point, Kino believes that to dispose of the pearl would be to dispose of his manhood and his soul, which the pearl represents to him. Juana can only accept this fate and wait for Kino to make the decision to save the family by destroying the pearl.

Kino is still not ready to part with his treasure; instead, he accepts the fact that he must put all his efforts into saving his family. Their native land is no longer safe for them, so Kino, Juana, and Coyotito must escape in the canoe. Unfortunately, he finds that it has been destroyed. Kino is again enraged, for the canoe represents his heritage and the values and traditions of his culture. According to primitive belief, the killing of a boat is worse then the killing of a man because "a boat does not have sons, and a boat cannot protect itself, and a wounded boat does not heal."

The boat is not the last evil to be inflicted on Kino's family. Turning away from the destroyed canoe, they discover that their hut is in flames by the hand of "the dark ones". Now, Kino has lost his peaceful family life, his heritage, and his home as a result of the pearl. But he is still unwilling to depart with it.

Juan Tomas and his wife Apolonia give shelter to Kino and his family until they can escape the next day. As the dutiful wife, Apolonia does not question her husband's actions; she merely abides with his wishes. With their help, Kino is able to flee to the North, to sell his pearl.

By the end of the chapter, the pearl has taken on a totally different meaning. It has become a part of Kino's existence. He feels that forsaking his treasure will endanger his relationship with the gods. In fact, Kino identifies the pearl with his soul. He says, "If I give it up, I shall lose my soul." Ironically, the truth is really the opposite, for when he gives up the pearl, he saves his soul.

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