by John Steinbeck
After a brief prologue in which Steinbeck likens the tale of the pearl to a parable into which men may read their own lives, the author begins the narrative. The primary characters are introduced: They are Kino, his wife Juana, and their baby Coyotito. Their lives on the Baja Peninsula are simply and somewhat idyllically painted by Steinbeck .
Steinbeck describes their abode as simple and humble—a typical Mexican Indian fishing village. The family lives a life full of habit and routine. Kino, the young hero of the novel, is satisfied with this life and with his young wife and their young baby. Kino watches the sun rise, eats his simple breakfast of cornmeal and juice (same as always), and sighs with satisfaction.
The image, of course, is characteristically utopian. Kino and his wife and child exist in a kind of garden paradise. That paradise, however, is about to be intruded upon by an outside evil. It makes its appearance first in the shape of nature—the scorpion; then in the shape of materialism—the pearl; and then in the shape of man himself—the doctor, the buyers, and the assassins.
Steinbeck calls Kino’s paradise the Song of the Family. Kino, his wife and baby, the world around him, the sun, the air—all of it takes part in this happy, peaceful song. That song, however, is interrupted by the Song of Evil, manifested by the appearance of the scorpion, which creeps down the rope of the hanging basket in which Coyotito is lying. Both Kino and Juana are startled out of their beautiful song. Juana whispers magic and says a Hail Mary to ward off the imminent danger (an illustration of the mixture of religion and superstition present in the village life). Kino springs into action but cannot stop the scorpion before the baby shakes the rope, causing the scorpion to fall and sting the child on the shoulder.
Kino snatches the scorpion, grinds it to a pulp in his hands, and smashes it into the ground. Juana tries to suck the poison out of the baby’s wound. Kino is...Sign up to continue reading Chapter 1-Chapter 3 >