Before you read this post, refer to my last post. Today, I would like to analyze chapter one of The Pearl by John Steinbeck.
In the first paragraph, beginning with “Kino awakened in the near dark..”, our main character is still unknown. All we know is that his name is Kino. But we can infer a few things. When did Kino wake up? The point of time in which it is halfway between night to day. Who else also woke up? The pigs, chicken, and birds- all animals. It is almost as if in a sense Kino is like an animal, and later on, we see that Kino is representative of the natives, who have been mistreated like animals by the invading whites.
But perhaps there is another way to view this. The fact that Kino is being on the level with animals shows the naturalistic state his family cherishes. He and his wife seem to live a simple life completely reliant on nature as we make out from the setting; almost reminiscent of Adam and Eve. So in here seems to be a theme of nature and God.
In fact, God is mentioned in the chapter, when Kino “watches with the detachment of God” as a bug falls into and struggles to get out of an ant lion’s trap. Here is an excellent example of foreshadowing, because later on we can expect that just like the victim of the trap, Kino will be falling into a trap and struggling to get out of it. And at that time, just like Kino, God will just watch.
The question is: what is this trap? Is it literal? Or more likely figurative? Well, again, look back at Adam and Eve. Their trap was that they fell for a beautiful apple because of Satan in disguise of a snake convincing them to eat it. Their lives, once normal and routine, suddenly changed for the worse dramatically after this one incident. And so can we expect the same of Kino and his wife. Notice how it was mentioned that it “was a morning like other mornings.” obviously emphasizing the normal routine that this morning seemed to be in. But soon a trap will come to disrupt this all. (aka the theme of disruption)
This trap is the scorpion. The Song of Evil. And here’s one thing that makes this chapter really beautiful- how Steinbeck puts everything into a form of song. Again, this fact is representative of the fact that Kino and his family are more focused on spiritual/moral things rather than physical things. Songs are not things that can be touched or owned, but rather can be shared and felt.
But now the Song of Evil strikes. Similarly, Satan has striked. Satan struck Adam and Eve, God’s most precious children, in the Bible; the scorpion here has struck Coyotito, Kino’s only child. Satan made Adam and Eve succumb to evil; in the novella, we also see succumbation. For right after the scorpion struck, Kino and Juana are faced with an important dilemma: the death of their son or going to the doctor. And the book makes special mention of “how surprising” it was for Juana to actually decide to call the doctor.
But let’s look at the doctor. The description of him shows him being wealthy, wanting nothing to do with the poor, living in a grand house, etc. Obviously signs of a materialistic life, a stark contrast to the much simpler life of Kino and his family. This materialistic life is evil. Juana surprisingly decides to choose this path into the doctor, representing the path to evil. It shows how much of an extent this dilemma is causing to Kino’s family and how much disruption, given that now at this point a spiritual family is turning towards a materialistic man. And note that they did not do this happily. They were forced to do it. They were forced to succumb to evil, in a sense.
But my most favorite part- after the doctor refused to help, Kino who is mad punches the gate really hard. “He looked down in wonder at his split knuckles and at the blood that flowed down between his fingers.” To me, that is a very beautiful ending. In a sense, we can take it as a lesson- don’t fight violence with violence. Here, Kino’s punch is symbolic of the natives fighting back against the white’s violence against them. The result is not victory but rather a self-defeating blow, symbolized by Kino bleeding himself when he intended to strike the gate.
Or we can also view the ending as Kino’s seeming hopelessness. His family has already been struck by evil and he cannot turn back. No matter how hard he tries to change it, he will just end up hurting his own family more.
End of Analysis*** P.S. This post is probably bad quality given that I did this in the middle of my sleep. Sorry.