Symbols and Themes

The Pearl—The pearl represents evil in its most destructive form by masquerading as good. The pearl at first represents hope, health, and prosperity for Kino and his family. However, it also inspires greed in the less noble. Moreover, it follows on the heels of the other two evils already introduced into the story by way of the scorpion and the doctor. Both the scorpion and the doctor seem to work in conjunction to draw Kino away from the peace he knows through traditional living. Inevitably, the pearl pushes Kino over the edge into a world governed by fancy, whim, and force of will. As others try to force their will onto Kino through manipulation, deception, or by outright theft and/or violence, Kino must struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the dream that the pearl has granted him. The pearl is evil because it destroys by way of seduction: It convinces the bearer of it that his wildest dreams will come true, yet all the pearl is really worth is whatever the next buyer is willing to give for it.

The pearl is also a metaphor for the creation of sin or vice in man. Just as the pearl starts off as a grain of sand in the mouth of an oyster, man starts out with grain of evil within him. This evil may be ambiguous and undefined, but it is there in Kino and Juana and their lack of faith and trust in their traditions. As their faith is placed more and more in the dreams inspired by the pearl, their own sins grow—just as the pearl grows in the oyster, coated over and over again with more and more layers that are meant to soothe the irritation but, of course, only add to it.

The Sea—The sea is seen as both a healer and a destroyer. It yields the right medicine for Coyotito, but it also produces storms that can destroy life. Its fruits, such as oysters and pearls, can sustain the villagers, but sometimes it offers fruits that are more harmful than helpful, such as Kino’s pearl. What is required in dealing with the sea is prudence and moderation. When Juana abandons the sea’s ointments in favor of the...

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