Kino and his wife, Juana live in a brush-house in Central America outside of the city at the Gulf. Everything they own is a canoe. One morning after breakfast, a scorpion stings their child Coyotito. Juana dares to go to a doctor, but the available doctor only visits the rich and refuses to see the child of the poor Indian family.
Desperately, Kino and Juana get into their boat hoping they will find pearls that are worth a lot of money to pay for Coyotito\'s treatment. As Kino dives down, he suddenly finds a big shell. He brings it up, opens it and they see a great pearl, perfect as the moon.
\"It captured the light and refined it and gave it back in silver incandescence. It was as large as a seagull\'s egg. It was the greatest pearl in the world.\"
The news spreads very fast and everybody knows about Kino having found the pearl. Everybody starts dreaming about what he would do with the pearl. The people in town become jealous. As the doctor hears about Kino\'s luck, he comes to see the baby. Coyotito is about to die, but the doctor can help in the last minute. As they go to bed, Kino buries the pearl close to his sleeping mat because he fears that someone will steal it. He suspects everyone. At night someone wants to break in but Kino attacks the person and he leaves. They decide to sell the pearl the next day. Juana says that the pearl is a sin and only brings evil and that they should throw it back into the sea. Kino refuses and dreams of his son being able to go to school and reading what is said in the books. Then finally someone from his own race can tell him what is really said in the books. The people in the neighbourhood hope that Kino won\'t become a rich man, who is full of greed, hatred and coldness - he has been a well-liked man.
Kino goes to town and all the neighbours and their families follow him. Everybody in town is excited to see what will happen.
When Kino shows his pearl to the first buyer, he says that it is worthless because it is too big. It is a curiosity, but there is no market for it. He only offers 1000 pesos. Kino can\'t believe what is happening and is sure that he is being cheated - just as his people always have been. The buyer calls three other pearl-buyers, but they don\'t offer more either. Kino says, that he will not sell it to them and that he will go to the capital to sell it there.
In the evening he is quite afraid of going to the capital, to strangers. But since he is convinced that he is being cheated he decides to go. At night Kino feels that there is some evil outside the brush-house and that\'s why he goes out. When Juana follows she sees that he is badly injured but Kino doesn\'t know who did it. Again she suggests to throw the pearl away, since it only brings evil. Kino opposes and says that he is \"a man\" and that he won\'t let anyone take their good fortune away.
When Kino is asleep, Juana takes the pearl and wants to throw it into the see, but Kino follows her, takes the pearl away and strikes her in her face. On his way back to the house he is attached by a stranger. When Juana finds the strength to get up from the shore to go home she finds the pearl in the woods and then Kino injured and a dead man next to him. Now they have to go before the sun rises.
They want to take the canoe but they see that someone has broken it. Going home, they see that their house is put on fire. So they find refuge in Kino\'s brother\'s house. They leave for the north the next night. Kino keeps the pearl since it now has become his soul.
So they flee on foot. After a day they realise that some trackers are behind them, so they have to go through the mountains. When they realise that the trackers are too close, Kino decides to attack and kill them. Doing so he becomes cold like steel and shoots around wildly. Accidentally, he also shoots Coyotito\'s head off.
Finally, Kino and Juana return to La Paz, go to the shore and throw the pearl back into the ocean.
Kino is a young and strong man with black hair, warm and bright eyes and a thin and coarse moustache. He lives in very poor and simple conditions. After he finds the pearl he becomes very materialistic and fierce. For his own wealth he is even willing to kill. He is full of hatred and doesn\'t trust anyone.
She has black hair, braided in two braids. She is very patient, fragile and obedient. She supports her husband in every thing he does and she accepts his will. She tries to convince her husband to give the pearl away, but she doesn\'t succeed until it is too late.
THE AUTHOR´S MESSAGE:
The story is told in great detail. Steinbeck describes every scene, especially the nature, very precisely.
He tells about life in small towns and the mentality of the natives living there. The difficult situation minorities are facing is pointed out. The main problems are living in poverty and never being respected. Maybe the most important point is how wealth can change people. Steinbeck also shows the weak position of women. In this case Juana is always patient, respectful and forgiving.
The pearl stands for material wealth and shows how superficial beauty influences the view.
Expertly, Steinbeck makes it easy for the reader to feel like he involved in the story, which makes it all very exciting. Some parts are very touching, for instance the part where Coyotito gets killed.
All in all the book is very well written.