Good versus Evil
The most prominent theme in the parable of the pearl is
that of the struggle between good and evil. As is the case with most parables the
characters and events of the story are rendered more definitely aligned with good
or evil than would be possible to appreciate amongst the degree of overlap
inherent to the real world. Throughout the story the songs that Kino hears in his
head reveals to him on an instinctual level of a person or thing's true nature.
Thus, the song of evil accompanies the Priest who treats the indians like children
and the doctor who regards them as animals. The song of the family, or the song
of life, accompanies the life-sustaining morning activities as well as the family
itself as they flee from their pursuers. In Kino's conception of good and evil
anything that threatens the family is evil. Thus the song of evil can also
accompany natural things like the scorpion which stings Coyotito. The pearl, also
a product of nature, is never clearly defined as inherently good or evil. Rather its
effect upon the family is shown to be evil once it has proven to be a treacherous
repository of Kino's dreams.
Poverty versus Wealth
The pearl's immediate and lasting effect upon
Kino is to cause him to dream of better things for himself and for his family.
Although the pearl attracts attackers and pursuers, Kino is determined that it shall
be the means by which his family rises above their station and, most importantly,
his son achieves literacy. In this manner the story is a political one. The story
delineates and draws moral conclusions about the differences between early
nineteenth century Mexico's poor, characterized by the sympathetic characters
such as Kino and Juana and the country's rich portrayed using unsympathetic
characters like the doctor.
Although Kino begins the story with the "song of the family"
coursing through his being, he is soon sidetracked by the desires generated by the
pearl. Though these desires are for things that Kino believes will make the family
stronger - a rifle, a marriage, education - It is Juana who struggles to maintain the
family as it once was. Significantly, it is Juana who first suggests destroying the
peal between two stones and actually attempts to free her family of its influence
by throwing it back into the sea. She realizes that the family would have no
meaning without Kino and relents to his desire to sell the pearl in the city. Just as
the family is what drives Kino's desires, so does the sense of family bind Juana to
his side when she refuses to part with him during their flight into the mountains.
Once Coyotito has been killed, however, the family has ceased to exist and Kino
can see that the pearl, contrary to his initial belief, has brought nothing but
The operations of chance and the effort to discern good luck
from bad luck in an underlying theme in the story. The pearl itself is the
byproduct of a chance grain of sand embedding in an oyster. Additionally, Kino's
finding of the pearl is depicted as the lucky moment of collusion of being in the
right place at the right time with the right need. The luck that that the pearl brings
Kino's family, however, is revealed to be bad luck when his attempt to sell it at a
fair price leads to the death of his only son.