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The protagonist of the novel is Kino, the pearl diver, and the entire plot revolves around him. At the beginning of the play, Kino is described as a simple family man, content with his surroundings and wanting nothing more than a full stomach and a placid life. When the scorpion bites his son, he takes him to the doctor. The doctor's curt response and refusal to help Coyotito causes Kino to search for the pearl. He discovers the greatest pearl in the world, which seems to incur the wrath of the gods. After finding the pearl, Kino must endure continuous hazards, which leave him afraid, yet unrelenting and defiant. Although he fights the evil forces behind the pearl, he cannot overcome them. He finally loses his most precious possession, his only son to the evil forces. The novel comes full circle with Kino flinging the pearl back to the sea from where it had come. Kino's character as a tough, resilient hardy man has been beautifully depicted.
Kino's antagonist is the beautiful pearl, which breeds greed, envy, and evil amongst the people around Kino, who are jealous of his newfound wealth.
In chapter six, Kino and his family flee from their country to go and sell their pearl. Evil trackers, hoping to steal the pearl, follow them on their journey. Coyotito's cry reveals the presence of Kino and his family, and the trackers shoot and kill their son. Finally, Kino hurls the pearl back into the sea.
The novel ends in tragedy. After the death of Coyotito, there is nothing left for Kino and Juana. The pearl has no value to them, for the main reason for selling it is to provide for their son. Now he is gone. The novel ends with Kino and Juana returning to their country, utterly forlorn and defeated. As the entire village follows them, the couple walks to the sea. There, Kino takes the pearl in his hand and flings it into the water, where it slowly disappears.