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Themes

Theme is the general idea of what the story is about. It is also seen as the central idea running throughout the story. Authors and writers highlight some central ideas that run parallel in stories or work of prose to discuss human issues. A novel may have one or more themes which are related to the experiences the characters undergo. The themes are brought out through the actions of the characters to the situations in the story. In “The Pearl” the author brings out the human dimensions through the experiences of Kino and his family.

 “The Pearl” is a novel which deals with hope and despair. The story reveals the struggles Kino and his family undergo and their hope for a better future. Although Kino finds the greatest pearl in the world it only leads to greater misfortunes, sufferings and a tragic end. “The Pearl” brings out human issues which relate to poverty, greed, good versus evil, oppression, and the struggle for survival and freedom. Let’s look at some of these themes that are evident in the novel.

Hope
The Pearl’ is a novel which shows the power of hope in people. Kino sees a larger meaning to life after discovering the pearl. The pearl is a symbol of hope. Kino knows that his family would be able to look forward to a brighter future. He is able to bring his family out from the clutches of poverty and sufferings. Kino wants his son Coyotito to be educated: to go through formal education and be knowledgeable. Kino visualises a great life ahead: fine clothes, necessities and luxuries.  Throughout the story, the power of hope, makes the people look forward to life. Kino is very hopeful that he will be able to break away from all the miseries, sufferings, and uncertainties he and his family face. The theme of hope runs throughout the story and drives Kino to believe that success is within reach. The feeling of hope is overwhelming in the novel.

Despair
The theme of despair is also evident in the story. Despair relates to the feeling of hopelessness. It is the feeling of losing all hope and seeing the end to the meaning of life. The main characters, Kino and Juana despair towards the end of the story. They are hopeless as they bring their only son Coyotito, lifeless back to La Paz. Juana’s hysterical cry is none other than the cry of death. Their hope is crushed. The meaning of life is blurred as they realise that their precious child is dead.  The pearl which Kino hoped would bring meaningful change and success, becomes meaningless. The feeling of despair makes them decide to throw the pearl back into the sea. Kino is not able to secure a bright future for his family. The feeling of despair marks the end of the story.

Good versus Evil
The theme of good versus evil is found in most novels. It is also found in “The Pearl”. The actions of the characters in the novel allow the readers to distinguish between good and evil. 

The protagonists (Kino and Juana) represent good. They are simple people, who have over time undergone hardships, but lead an honest life. Kino, Juana, Juan Tomas, Apolonia, and their neighbours are innocent people who depend on the sea for fish and pearl. They work hard and live in a close-knit community. On the other hand, the doctor, pearl buyers, attackers and trackers are evil-minded people. They belong to a race of people who have taken advantage of Kino’s people, for centuries, causing great sufferings and miseries to them. They are selfish and self-centred. They want the pearl as they know it is valuable.

The doctor wishes to own the pearl for his own selfish needs. He longs to live in France, where he would be able to do as he wishes. He is too materialistic. He treats Coyotito and offers to safeguard the pearl for Kino. But, he has his own evil plans.

The pearl buyers are evil as they try to cheat Kino by offering him very low prices for his pearl. They conspire to cheat the poor fisherman knowing that he is innocent.

The trackers are merciless killers. They represent evil. They set out to track and even kill Kino and his family.

Evil minds cause Kino and his family to suffer. Intruders attack Kino to get the pearl. They damage his canoe and burn his brush house. Kino and Juana become homeless and flee the village as fugitives.

The pearl is also a symbol of evil. The pearl brings all the miseries to Kino and his family. Juana warns Kino that the pearl is evil. It will destroy them but Kino sees the pearl as a means to a bright future. In the end, Kino realises the pearl is evil and knows that it is better to get rid of evil than to keep it with him, and throws the pearl back into the sea. 

Kino does not give up easily. He does not accept the pearl buyers’ offers. He defies them and plans to go to the capital to sell his pearl. Kino fights an intruder who tries to steal his pearl. Kino kills a man in self-defense. He also kills three evil trackers who are out to get him and his family. All these actions show that good overcomes evil.

Greed
Greed is seen as a negative quality in people. There are a number of characters in the novel who are greedy. The doctor, the pearl buyers, the attackers and the trackers are greedy.

The doctor is greedy to want someone else’s possession. He is self-centred and does not want to treat Coyotito because Kino cannot pay him for his service. He pretends to treat Coyotito with evil plans in his mind. He wants the pearl and offers to keep it safely for Kino at his place.

The pearl buyers are greedy to want someone’s fortune and conspire to cheat Kino. They are only interested in the pearl as they know its true value.

The attackers, who attack Kino, are out to get his pearl. They want the pearl for their own evil purpose. The trackers look for Kino and his family with one thing in their mind: to get the pearl. They will not hesitate to kill anyone in their way.

The actions of the above characters are driven by greed. The doctor wants to live a great life in France and is materialistic. The pearl buyers are desperate to cheat Kino because of greed. Greed makes these people behave cruel, irrational, inhuman, irresponsible, selfish, and good deeds are drowned in the pursuit of fortune.

The struggle for survival and freedom
The theme of struggle for survival and freedom is also evident in the novel. Kino's people are poor, suppressed and do not have many opportunities in life. They work hard to make a decent income. Many of his people are beggars too. They belong to the lower socio-economic group. Thus, they do not have formal education and have to depend on others to get information or know about important matters. Kino and his people are innocent. They work very hard but are not able to escape from their miseries and sufferings. This has been going on for centuries. Kino's people are not able to enjoy better things in life. They live a simple and primitive life. Thus, the struggle of the people to have a better life for them and future generations are highlighted in the novel.

The theme of survival and freedom runs throughout the story. Kino struggles to make it in life. He knows that education would bring changes to society. He wishes to move away from the older order of life. The older order of life makes him and his people trapped without having better opportunities. He wants the future generation to have a better life and enjoy greater freedom. Kino’s struggles are symbolic of the struggles of his people for survival and freedom. The answer to their sufferings and uncertainties is wealth. The pearl which Kino finds is the answer to the problem. Kino sees a greater meaning to life: a brighter future and freedom. He wants his son to be set free from all the sufferings he and his people are undergoing.  But, he is not able to get them out from the cycle of life: He is not able to free his family. His struggles have no meaning in the end.

 
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