As Kino and Juana continue their journey northward, a mix of exhilaration and fear fills Kino’s heart. To avoid being captured, they trek under the cover of darkness and rest during the day, carefully erasing any trace of their path. Kino warns Juana that anyone who finds them will take the pearl, but she starts to doubt its value, wondering if the dealers were right. Kino reassures her, stating that no one would try to steal it if it weren’t valuable. He reminds her of the dreams they will fulfill once they sell the pearl: a church wedding, a rifle, and education for Coyotito.
During their daytime break, Juana remains wide awake while Kino stirs in his dreams. When they hear noises in the distance, Kino instructs Juana to keep Coyotito quiet. Concealed, he ventures out to investigate, spotting three bighorn sheep trackers, one on horseback. Kino realizes that if they discover them, he must act swiftly, overpower the horseman, and seize his rifle. As the horseman passes by, obliviously, Kino and Juana understand that the trackers would kill them to obtain the pearl.
Desperate to evade the pursuers, Kino and Juana head to the mountains, neglecting to conceal their tracks. Kino suggests that Juana and Coyotito should separate from him, as he can move faster alone. However, Juana firmly refuses, demonstrating her unwavering loyalty. Zigzagging along a treacherous path, they aim to confuse the trackers. Eventually, they stumble upon a small stream and the entrance to a cave. Kino instructs Juana to hide inside while he worries that Coyotito’s cries might expose them.
In the shelter of the cave, Kino discovers the presence of the trackers near the stream. To avoid detection, he removes his white clothing and stealthily approaches them as they rest. The trackers mistake Coyotito’s cries for those of a coyote pup. While one of the trackers prepares to shoot, Kino lunges at them, snatches a rifle, and shoots one of them point-blank between the eyes. He stabs another with his knife, leaving only one tracker fleeing up towards the cave. Kino shoots him, leaving silence in the wake of death. Coyotito has been fatally wounded.
Finally returning to La Paz, Kino carries a gun while Juana clings to her shawl and a heavy bundle. Their arrival becomes a memorable event, etched into the memories of those who heard the tales. Juana appears hardened and weary, while Kino’s battle cry becomes the Song of the Family. As they approach the gulf, Kino gazes at the pearl’s surface, remembering Coyotito’s lifeless body in the cave. He makes a definitive decision and hurls the pearl into the ocean.
Analysis: The Descent into Savagery and Loss
In this final chapter, Steinbeck intensifies the sense of constant pursuit faced by Kino and Juana as they strive to escape La Paz and sell the pearl. The author emphasizes the blurred line between man and animal, portraying Kino and Juana as hunted creatures rather than humans. Kino’s descent into savagery is evident, especially when he attacks the trackers. His killings stem from fear and instinct, rather than an immediate threat.
Steinbeck underlines Kino’s loss of humanity as he sheds his clothes to move undetected. Stripped of the last remnants of civilization, Kino becomes more animalistic. A tragic irony lies in the fact that Kino’s feral behavior results in the death of his son, as Coyotito is mistaken for a coyote pup.
Throughout the chapter, Coyotito acts as a reminder of the peaceful domestic life Kino and Juana once shared, but he also becomes a danger to his family. In the merciless wilderness, Coyotito represents their only link to society and hope for the future. His presence symbolizes the anticipated advantages the pearl could bring to their lives.
Steinbeck purposely keeps the trackers anonymous, emphasizing their symbolic significance rather than their individuality. Whether or not they pose an actual threat, Kino’s unwavering belief in their danger leads him to kill them preemptively.
Contrasting Kino’s descent, Juana grows stronger amid their suffering. She remains devoted to her husband, refusing to let their family be torn apart, even with the benefits it may offer. Juana acts as the guardian, staying awake at night to protect Kino and Coyotito. While Kino becomes increasingly suspicious and paranoid, Juana retains her essential humanity.
The return to La Paz marks a climactic but anticlimactic moment. Kino possesses the one thing he desperately desired, a rifle, but has lost his son and rejected the pearl. His rejection unveils the horror the pearl has inflicted upon him. Although Kino returns to the family-centered ideals he held at the beginning of the story, the recollection of the Song of the Family carries an undercurrent of defiance and anger. Despite the destruction of his family, Kino clings to these ideals, for they are all that remain.
The Pearl presents an uncertain and often morbidly determinist parable. It seems to caution against attempting to improve one’s social position, recalling the story of the pearl agent who stole the town’s pearls. While the story appears to critique Kino’s pursuit of wealth, it equally condemns the elites of La Paz, who exploit Kino and obstruct his attempts to sell the pearl. The pearl’s effects on Kino highlight the loss of human values and the obsessive fixation it engenders. However, the pearl brings only immediate calamities to Juana and Kino, turning it into a curse rather than a source of hope.
When Kino discards the pearl into the ocean, he symbolically rids himself of a meaningless object. Without Coyotito, the pearl holds no power to secure a better future for the family, offering nothing more than material possessions. Kino’s abandonment of the pearl is a hollow act, devoid of true sacrifice. As a parable, The Pearl both heaps tragedy upon its protagonists and denies them the possibility of hope or a different fate.