Study Guide

The Pearl Primitivity

By John Steinbeck


Chapter 5

The canoe of his grandfather, plastered over and over, and a splintered hole broken in it. This was an evil beyond thinking. The killing of a man was not so evil as the killing of a boat. For a boat does not have sons, and a boat cannot protect itself, and a wounded boat does not heal. There was sorrow in Kino's rage, but this last thing had tightened him beyond breaking. He was an animal now, for hiding, for attacking, and he lived only to preserve himself and his family. He was not conscious of the pain in his head. He leaped up the beach, through the brush line toward his brush house, and it did not occur to him to take one of the canoes of his neighbors. Never once did the thought enter his head, any more than he could have conceived breaking a boat. (5.15)

Kino becomes animalistic when he becomes the victim of inhumane offenses.

Chapter 6

The people say that the two seemed to be removed from human experience; that they had gone through pain and had come out on the other side; that there was almost a magical protection about them. (6.100)

This is an incredibly interesting line. Have Juana and Kino become less human because they’ve experienced suffering? Or does being "removed from human experience" simply mean that they are now privy to perspective, to emotional distance from suffering?

Some ancient thing stirred in Kino. Through his fear of dark and the devils that haunt the night, there came a rush of exhilaration; some animal thing was moving in him so that he was cautious and wary and dangerous; some ancient thing out of the past of his people was alive in him. The wind was at his back and the stars guided him. (6.3)

Suffering and danger have driven Kino to rely on his animalistic, intuitive instincts.

Kino lay as rigid as the tree limb. He barely breathed, and his eyes went to the place where he had swept out the track. Even the sweeping might be a message to the trackers. He knew these inland hunters. In a country where there was little game they managed to live because of their ability to hunt, and they were hunting him. They scuttled over the ground like animals and found a sign and crouched over it while the horseman waited. (6.29)

The trackers are animals not only in their movements and actions, but in their motives – they have no regard for Kino’s humanity. Kino responds in kind by regarding them as animals too.

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