Chapter 4-Chapter 6

Chapter 4

This chapter begins with a description of the way a town functions. When every unit—every man, woman, and child—operates according to custom, then the town goes peacefully on its way. On the other hand, when one unit steps out of the ordinary and does something different, all of the parts of the town sense it and communicate to the whole. This is the case with Kino when he decides to sell his pearl. Everyone knows about it and feels it, from the altar boys at mass to the Chinese grocery store owners.

Then a description of pearl buying is given. In the old days, the pearl buyers competed against each other so that the fisherman could receive a good price. Now, though, there is only one pearl buyer who exercises a monopoly over the trade. This one buyer has many hands who are all acting on his behalf. Thus, each “buyer” is acting in conjunction with one another so as to pay the lowest price possible. This arrangement does not bode well for the fisherman.

The neighbors, meanwhile, talk among themselves and imagine what Kino might do with the pearl. Some speculate that he will give it as a gift to the Holy Father, while others suppose that he will sell it and distribute the wealth among the poor. All hope that the pearl does not change Kino’s character. They, too, sense that power and wealth are dangerous enticements. They seem to be aware of the pearl’s evil; they like Kino and do not want him to be destroyed by it.

Kino and Juana set off to the market with the neighbors following to see what will happen. Kino wears his hat tilted aggressively forward. Steinbeck notes that much can be told from the way a man wears his hat.

Juan Thomas reminds Kino that he must be sure not to be cheated. He tells the story of the old days when the men sent their pearls off with a seller whom they trusted to get better prices for them in the capital, but from whom they never heard again. Kino admits it was a good idea in theory but that in reality it did not work well. Then Kino reminds...

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