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Free Study Guide-The Pearl by John Steinbeck-Free Online BookNotes
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Chapter 6


Kino and Juana, with Coyotito, start walking towards the North. Kino, with his animal instinct, senses danger. As a result, they walk all night in the protection of darkness. In the daylight, Juana and Coyotito sleep, while Kino keeps watch. When Juana wakes, Kino sleeps restlessly for a short while. Upon waking, Kino senses danger; he sees three figures in the distance, two on horseback and one on foot. He realizes that they are inland hunters, trackers out to find him. These trackers are as sensitive as hounds and can easily find their trail. Panic stricken, Kino almost feels like giving them the pearl; but Juana makes him realize that they will kill him anyway, pearl or not.

Kino and Juana start running towards the mountains, seeking "the high place, as nearly all animals do when they are pursued." After a while he sees that Juana is tired; he asks her to hide while he goes ahead, but Juana refuses. Finally, they stop at a cave, and Juana and the baby go inside to rest. Kino goes to leave a false trail that he hopes will fool the trackers. The plan does not work, for the trackers rest close to the cave for the night. Kino decides he must attack and try to seize the gun. He tells Juana that if he is killed, she must stay hidden until the trackers move on. He then touches Coyotito's head and strokes Juana's cheek. Finally, he removes his white clothes, which would have disclosed him, and moves towards the trackers.

Kino crawls quietly down the mountain towards the stream by which the trackers are sleeping. When he is twenty feet away, Kino readies his knife for attack. Suddenly, a small cry is heard, and one of the sleeping trackers awakens. The trackers decide the cry comes from a coyote cub. One tracker raises his rifle to shoot if a coyote appears. As the rifle fires, Kino leaps at the gunman and stabs him. He swiftly attacks the second tracker, while the third runs away. Kino grabs the gun and fires at the fleeing tracker. Suddenly, Kino hears a horrible cry coming from the cave. Coyotito has been killed in the gunfire.

Kino and Juana return to La Paz. All the townsfolk come out to see them. Juana is carrying her shawl in which the dead body of her child lies. Both walk through the city without a word, but bitterness is etched on Kino. No one dares speak to the couple. They keep walking until they reach the beach. While wild music beats in his head, Kino takes the pearl into his hand. No longer does he see hope or goodness in its beauty; instead, he sees his ruined canoe, his burned hut, murdered men, and a dead baby. Kino offers the pearl to his wife, but she refuses. Kino raises his arm and flings the pearl back into the sea. They see it splash into the water, and Kino and Juana silently watch as it disappears below.


This long chapter deals with the long and hazardous journey which Kino and his family undertakes in order to escape from their pursuers and to try and sell their pearl. The journey is described in great detail. Scared and cautious, Kino moves forward, guiding his family with animal instinct through an unknown world. In truth, he has become a hunted beast, who must flee from trackers who follow his trail.

During the chase, the meaning of the pearl begins to change for Kino. When earlier, he has seen a new harpoon and rifle for him on its surface, he now sees a dead body huddled on the ground. When earlier he has thought of getting married in church, now he sees Juana with her beaten face crawling home in the night. His vision of his son learning to read is now substituted with the picture of Coyotito's face, feverish and sick. The music of the pearl itself transforms into the music of evil.

When Kino notices the trackers, he is consumed with a frenzy to escape from them. He knows if the trackers catch up, they will steal the pearl and kill the family. He urges Juana to stay behind, but she refuses. Together they race through the dry, arid desert, seeking the cool comfort and protection of the mountains ahead. They finally arrive at a mountain stream, where they rest and drink. Kino finds a mountain cave nearby, where Juana and the baby can hide and sleep.

When the trackers close in on the cave, Kino decides to attack. Warning Juana to keep the baby quiet, he crawls toward his pursuers. As he is ready to attack, Coyotito cries, and the trackers are awakened. Kino must react quickly. He stabs two of the men and fires the seized rifle at the third. Ironically, a stray bullet strikes Coyotito. Further irony is seen in the fact that Kino, Juana, and Coyotito were able to survive the harsh, arid desert, usually a symbol of death; in contrast, the mountains, which usually offer water, coolness, life, and salvation, bring death to the poor couple.

With their only child's untimely death, there is nothing left for Kino and Juana in this world. All their dreams have dissolved; all their aspirations have disintegrated. In sadness and bitterness, they head back to their native village of La Paz to bury their child. As they enter the town, they are spied by the children, who tell their parents. A third procession of the native folks is quickly formed. As Kino and Juana, with their tiny bundle, walk into the village, all of their neighbors follow them.

Kino has finally accepted defeat and it shows in his face as he walks through the town. The evil forces of the pearl have totally disrupted his life. The townsfolk are envious of him, he has no home or canoe, he has murdered four men, and his only child is dead; he blames all of these calamities on the pearl. Stripped of his heritage, his son, and his dreams, there is nothing to look forward to in life. No sum of money can bring back his happiness; thus, the pearl no longer has a value to Kino. As a result, he and Juana walk straight to the beach, and he throws the pearl into the sea. As it disappears in to the dark water, the "Song of the Pearl" reduces to a whisper and then is heard no more.

It is important to note that the most wonderful pearl in the world never changes in the course of the novella. It is breath taking in its beauty at the beginning, and it is breath taking as it is tossed back into the sea. The pearl itself is not evil; instead, it is the human reaction to the pearl, the greed and the envy, that has caused the tragedies for Juana and Kino.

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