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“The Pearl” is a novel by J. Steinbeck published in 1947, it is based on a true story about a poor Mexican couple, a fisherman, Kino, who finds an oyster with a giant pearl of immense value and his wife, Juana, a very sensitive woman and their little child, Coyotito. In my opinion this is a story that can be considered a universal cry, because it is really common to many poor people the pain and the suffering that they can spread.
This is, above all, a serious and deep tale about the difference between the two social classes represented, on the one hand, by the doctor, the priest and the buyers and, on the other hand, by the poor local inhabitants. Thereby, I’d just like to say that the novel’s message is very timely, because the story doesn’t change, yesterday is like today, especially if there are few people, the colonizers, who bully a helpless majority, the indigenous people, without many resources to survive.
The environment in which the story takes place is one of the uncontaminated areas in the Gulf of California where simple families live and work fishing oysters with pearls that will be sold to cheap buyers. It seems that we could live in a little paradise because of the sight, the sound and the perfume of the sea, in spite of the hard work of the local poor people, but it could be real, only if freedom and peace were garanteed to everythings and to everyone: to the land, to the sea, to the trees, the bushes, mainly to the animals and to the people.
About these places he describes, in addition, the feelings that the people feel in their souls rather than in their minds and this is because they, loving music, can translate what they see, they hear and they think into many songs that are similar to what the other native inhabitants can sense and sing. This feature strengthens the bond beetween the mother earth and her natural elements, among the family, the relatives and the friends.
Kino can really listen to the Song of the Family that is the sound of their living together and in peace with the others but a negative message is represented by The Song of the Evil that he can listen to when the scorpion threatens his son or by The Song of Enemy when the thieves attack his family and the trackers follow them; but the stronger sound to him is The Song of the Pearl when he hopes to find a great pearl to provide a better life to his son, to his wife and to himself as well. He also has to recognize with pain the worst sound of his own and his wife’s life: the sad and deafening sound of the death’s scream.
As mentioned above the main characters are Kino and Juana, a couple who live their life in peace with a great serenity because of their mutual love and of the one for their baby Coyotito who is their only child. Personally, I believe to discover in both the double soul of the two greatest and universal protagonists-antagonists: good versus evil, this is because they live the eternal contradictions of a society where the evil and selfish power of the colonizers interferes with their natural availability and sharing for their entire community.
Kino is a hard worker and a quite rational man, he knows that the survival of his family depends on his ability in oysters fishing and on his determination in defending all of them, so when he realizes that he could save Coyotito with a lucky fishing, he does not give up. He is determined to defend his giant Pearl, source of wealth, especially to give his child the opportunity to study for himself, for his parents and for his people, to get married, at last, Juana in church; these are the two lights into his soul, and to buy, instead, a rifle for himself, but this is the darkness side of his soul, maybe because he understands that he is not as well as the doctor or the buyers. He knows he is a poor fisherman without culture and without authority while they have the power of money and the protection of the law.
Juana is a young woman who loves very much his husband because he is kind and attentive with her and with their son, but she is more reflective and more practical than him, even if she is very superstitious. She is a loyal and submissive wife, like her culture requires, but she is very sensitive and she sometimes disagrees with Kino’s impulsive actions so she suffers a lot when he accidentally beats her, because she does not want the pearl breaks their balance, she is right, she feels that the pearl is the devil’s symbol, because she can see it into the pearl’s reflection.
She loves her baby very much, so she takes care of him at home like she tries to use an old cure based on seaweeds to help him, she also shows a great courage when she decides to go to the doctor or when she has to escape with Kino and their baby; she reveals a great maturity especially when Coyotito dies not because of the scorpion’s poison but because of a rifle shot, the lethal weapon that Kino would like to buy to himself.
At the end of the tale there is a message that is very important not only for this family but also for those who love freedom and equality: “Kino usually walked in front of Juana, but that day they walked side by side.”
Another evident and very important aspect of the story is the strong link among the little family and their relatives, the Kino’s older brother, Juàn Thomas, and his prolific wife, Apolonia, in fact either of them can support the young couple with a great love, they are both really very sympathetic to them, putting them up when they need to hide, without revealing this to the indian people who live with them as if they were truly united in a choral embrace.
The worst characters who we could identify with the devil are the ones of the doctor and of the priest because of some unpleasant reasons: the first one is the total lack of loyalty to their oath, the second one is their selfishness and willingness flaunt power, the third is the dishonorable turnabout. They are both the expression of a bourgeois society irrespective of men, women, animals, plants, earth and water that were in the past the only treasure of these different societies.
It seems to me that the thieves and the trackers are both very similar to the first two, but while the doctor and the priest are used to act with an apparent availability in the offending the dignity of the Indians, the second one can use a fierce and evident violence to destroy everythings and to steal what belongs to the others, like the Coyoito’s life, the uncertain serenity and the pursued peace in his parents.
Throughout the whole story we can perceive a deep sadness and also a great strengh especially when from the bottom of the sea as from the secret of the young couple‘s hearts: “The music of the pearl became a whisper and then disappeared”.