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Free Study Guide-The Pearl by John Steinbeck-Free Online BookNotes
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Juana

Juana is Kino's wife, his helpmate, his strength, and his anchor. Juana is the perfect wife, who considers her husband to be the most important person in her life. She always is awake before her husband in order to prepare his breakfast, tend to their child, and look after her family with total devotion. She is loyal, hardworking, strong, uncomplaining, and almost subservient in carrying out her domestic duties. When tragedy strikes, she is levelheaded. When the scorpion bites Coyotito, Juana takes charge of the situation and hustles her husband and child to the doctor. When her husband is attacked the first time by people seeking his pearl, she realizes the destructive powers surrounding the pearl and suggests that Kino get rid of it. When he is attacked the second time, she takes matters into her own hands, finds the pearl, and attempts to toss it back into the gulf. Her effort is stopped by Kino, who seizes the pearl from her and in a rage, strikes her to the ground and kicks her. She accepts the punishment in a sheepish manner, for she has never needed to stand up to her husband before. But when he punishes her, she accepts that the pearl is now part of their existence.

Juana, like the other Indian folk, is quite superstitious. When the scorpion bites her son, she offers incantations to the gods that ironically ends with a "Hail Mary". When Kino comes out of the water with the oysters, she persuades him not to open the biggest one first, for it might seem that they are too eager and, thus, displease the gods. But Juana uses her primitive knowledge to the advantage of the family. When Coyotito is bitten by the scorpion, she places a poultice on his shoulder to help the swelling abate. When the evil forces attack her husband, she knows how to clean his wounds and gives him a soothing native drink.

Juana's courage, loyalty, determination, innate ability, and strength make her an interesting character and wonderful wife for Kino.

The Doctor

The doctor is a symbol of hypocrisy and greed in a world where money is what matters. As a doctor, he should love life and provide healing to all in need. Instead, he thinks only of wealth, disdains the poor, and shows no love of humanity. When Coyotito is bitten by the scorpion and Kino and the entire village folk proceed to the doctor's house, the doctor is sitting in his bed, wearing a silk dressing gown, and sipping chocolate from a delicate cup. His stout body, his puffy eyes resting in "little hammocks of flesh," and his mouth, all depict his degenerated style of living. The memories of his life in Paris, which he calls "civilized living," include how he used to maintain a mistress and eat in fine restaurants. This despicable man refuses to help the infant Coyotito because Kino cannot afford to pay his medical fee.


After the hypocritical doctor hears about Kino's pearl, he goes to Kino's house, pretending to be worried about the child's well- being, when in truth he is worrying about the pearl. When he is told by the parents that Coyotito is improving, the doctors tells them that the poison generally strikes inward and that only with his ministrations can the baby survive. In truth, he gives the infant a formula that makes him seem really sick. The doctor returns and miraculously "cures" Coyotito, thus hoping to ingratiate himself to the owner of the pearl. He even suggests that he watch over the pearl for Kino. Fortunately, Kino resists further interference from the dark force of the doctor.

The Priest

The Priest is also a hypocrite. Though not entirely evil, he is depicted as a person who only cares about his rich parishioners. He has refused to marry Juana and Kino, for they cannot afford to pay the church for a wedding ceremony. Yet when the Priest hears about Kino's great pearl, he immediately thinks that Kino should give him money for the needed repair work on his church. To improve his chances of a contribution from Kino, he calls on the poor Indian, probably for the first time ever, and warns Kino to give thanks to God for his new treasure. He also reminds Kino that he has a financial duty to his church, ironic words spoken by the Priest who has refused to help Kino in the past. The Priest is not portrayed as an immoral character, only as a selfish, greedy one.

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