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The Pearl

The Pearl


by John Steinbeck

The Pearl Chapter 3 Summary

  • News about Kino’s pearl travels fast across town.
  • Unfortunately, everyone is self-serving: the priest hears about the pearl and thinks about repairs needed for the church, the shopkeepers think about the clothes they could sell to Kino, etc.
  • Then the doctor realizes Kino was the guy from earlier, and he thinks about Paris and fine dining.
  • Then we cut to the pearl-buying offices. This is where all the "agents" sit around and haggle a man into taking the lowest possible prices for his pearls.
  • Even more depressing, these miserable scrooges are only buying the pearls on behalf of other (richer) folk.
  • Kino, we are told, becomes everyone’s enemy. Each person sees what the pearl could do for him, and Kino becomes the only man standing in their way.
  • But Kino and Juana are happily oblivious. They sit at home with Kino’s brother Juan and his wife Apolonia; Kino talks about what he will do once he becomes a rich man.
  • He decides he wants to get married to his wife – officially and in the church, now that they can pay for it. He looks into the pearl and sees a vision of them at the altar, dressed all spiffy.
  • Then he says he wants a rifle.
  • Kino continues: his son Coyotito will go to school.
  • But then he gets scared at his own talking, seeming to doubt the real capabilities of this magical pearl.
  • The priest comes to visit, but he’s super-condescending because he considers the natives to be children.
  • He flatters Kino and puts in his two cents about how they should donate money to the church.
  • Juana receives his words kindly, and the priest leaves.
  • Kino is distracted by the evil song, which is competing with the song of the pearl.
  • Once all the spectators have gone back to their homes for the night, Kino sits around and realizes that many are plotting against him.
  • He decides to counter-plot.
  • While he’s busy doing that, two men with lanterns approach his home: the doctor and his servant.
  • The doctor says he was out earlier, but now he’s come to look at the baby.
  • Kino tells him the baby is better, but the doctor counters that sometimes scorpion stings seem to get better when really they’re getting worse.
  • The doctor takes a look at Coyotito and is all, "Hmm! Hurmph! Well!" and says the poison is holed-up on the inside with blueprints and planning a second attack just as soon as it gets its beauty rest.
  • He then gives Coyotito a mysterious capsule, which we speculate contains poison.
  • The doctor goes outside, and Kino wraps up and hides the pearl. Good call, buddy.
  • Sure enough, the baby gets sick. Juana says "the doctor knew," but Kino is suspicious, mostly because of the evil song he’s hearing.
  • The doctor then gives Coyotito something else (antidote), packs up his bags, and asks when Kino will be able to pay the bill.
  • Kino is all, "As soon as I sell my pearl," and the doctor is all, "Ooh, you have a pearl? Really? Tell me more about this mysterious object that, before this very moment, I have not heard mention of whatsoever. Also, I’ll ‘hold’ it for you in my ‘safe.’"
  • Kino passes on the offer, but not-so-intelligently lets his eyes travel to the place in the hut where the pearl is hidden.
  • Everyone leaves. Kino hears more evil music, so he moves the pearl to a hole he’s dug under his sleeping mat.
  • Juana asks who he is afraid of, and Kino answers, "Everyone."
  • They all go to sleep until Kino awakens with the song of evil pulsing through him.
  • What follows is a scuffle in the dark with at least one intruder: Kino gets smashed on the head, but chases off the bad guy.
  • As Juana nurses his injury, she declares that the pearl is a sin, that it’s evil, and that it will destroy them if they don’t throw it back into the ocean.
  • Kino, who is busy oscillating between fear and rage, doesn’t listen.
  • The next morning, Kino digs up the pearl and stares at its beauty while listening to its song. He feels hopeful again – today is the day he will sell the pearl.

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