The Pearl Chapters 1-2 Summary

The first chapter of John Steinbeck's The Pearl introduces a rural indigenous Mexican family of three, Kino a young father, his wife Juana, and their baby Coyotito. As the novel opens, Kino is very much absorbed in what he calls the "song of the family," the day-to-day goings on of his growing household. Kino, a pearl diver by trade, is a simple man who deeply appreciates his quiet uncomplicated life. He revels in the sunset, the sound Junana's fire makes as she prepares breakfast, and the melody of her work hardened arms as she grinds the day's corn.

The baby, Coyotito, was slumbering nearby in an Indian bed called a "hanging box," as the sun came up and lit the family's little brush house. In a ray of sunlight beaming through the door both Kino and Juna noticed a scorpion perched on the baby's sleeping area. Juana began muttering both the Hail Mary, and indigenous prayers as her husband slowly stretches his hand out in hopes of knocking the pest away. Innocently, Coyotito laughs and claps his hands, shaking the hanging box and causing the scorpion to fall on to him, at which point the startled creature stings the infant on the shoulder as his father fruitlessly rushes forward to intervene. Kino does slay the arthropod, but realizes it is too late as hears Coyotito screams in agony while Juana frantically sucks the venom out of the wound.

Startled by the child's wails the other residents of Kino and Juana's small village rush to the scene and gaped uselessly as Coyotito's mother attempted to save her first-born. All of the onlookers knew, as Kino and Juana, did that a child as young as Coyotito could easily die from the scorpion sting.

At this point a little more is revealed to the reader about the character of Juana, she is a resilient woman, cheerful and hardworking, she almost never complains or shows weakness. Kino is surprised when she tells the gathering crowd to "go get the doctor." Everyone present knew that the doctor would not come, the village was poor, and he had more than enough patients among the wealthy. Kino tells Juana that the doctor "won't come", and so she decides that they should take the baby to him.

And so Juana and Kino go with their baby and precession of villagers into town and to the gate of the French doctor who was a man of very poor morals. It is known by all the locals that he gives shoddy abortions, turns the poor away, and refuses to give alms at church. The man who answers Kino's knock is, like Kino and his wife, indigenous, but refuses to speak to them in the their native language. When the family explaines what had happened to their son the gatekeeper offers to ask the doctor if he will see Coyotito.

When the servant approaches the doctor the professional is incensed that his Indian gatekeeper is perturbing him, and that the man wants to know if he will see an indigenous baby with a scorpion sting. Nevertheless he tells his servant to ask the family if they have any money for the service. When the gatekeeper returns and asks Kino and his wife if they have anything to offer in return, he reveals eight tiny and misshapen seed pearls of unappealing color. The servant took the pearls to show the physician, and returned almost immediately informing the family of the ailing child that the doctor had been called away to a "serious case." Clearly the doctor was uninterested both in their hard won offerings, and the life of their child.

In Chapter two, rejected by the doctor, the couple makes their way to the shore with their ailing child in hopes that they might find a pearl impressive enough that the doctor will accept it as payment for his services. Juana makes a poultice of seaweed for the baby, and begins praying to her ancient Gods that they her husband will find a high quality pearl. They see the pearls as accidents, and the finding of one as "a pat on the back by God or the gods or both." Kino dives for oysters at the bottom of the ocean carrying with him a stone weighted basked. He has to carefully dig through mounds of wasted and broken oysters before he finds several that are intact. As Kino worked he suddenly spotted an extremely large oyster lying, unlike the others, by itself as if placed there by magic. Excited, Kino immediately surfaces with his discovery.

Juana and Kino are both extremely excited about the large oyster, but being superstitious people they try not to show their excitement very. Both believe God and the gods frown upon wanting a thing too much. Kino decides that it is more auspicious to open the large oyster last, so he opens a small one first. However, his curiosity gets the better of him, and he picks up the large oyster and inspects it, Juana encourages him to open it. When he opens the shell, and digs through the muscle, he discovers a perfectly shaped and colored pearl that is the size of a sea-gull's egg.

Juana turns her attention from the pearl to her son, and notices to her astonishment that in the presence of the giant pearl, Coyotito wound has become significantly better. She alerts Kino to the improvement and, overcome by the collective emotion of his son's spontaneous.

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