The author uses detailed description to set the story in the brush village where our protagonist Kino lives with his family. We learn about the simple life the people lead and the early mornings Kino and his wife wake to begin the day. Between Kino and the wife, there is little conversation but actions speak. Although the morning is peaceful and Kino is to enjoy his breakfast, he is rudely interrupted by a scorpion making its way on a rope to the hanging box where his baby boy Coyotito lay.
Although Kino is steady enough to prance at the scorpion, the movement in the cot causes the scorpion to fall into the cot biting the boy. In their desperation, Kino and his wife Juana decide to take the child to the town to see the doctor. The rest of the village and the idle in the town follow Kino to see the reaction of the doctor who was used to seeing people with man most of whom were not Kino’s people.
The doctor turns them down because Kino’s payment was valueless pearls. Kino is infuriated but there was nothing he could do but return home.
Kino and his wife lead a silent life each clinging to their own thoughts. There is a striking difference between Kino and wife in that when Juana wakes up she walks on bear feet but Kino uses sandals.
The difference in Kino and his wife is also the difference between the town people and Kino’s people who live in brush houses. Kino’s people hold the people in high esteem as seen with the servant and so does Kino’s wife hold her husband.
Poverty and lack of money causes Kino and his wife not to get the medical attention deserved for their first born and only son.
Steinbeck figuratively expands the setting to the ocean in this chapter in order to lay ground to the economic activity of Kino’s people. When Kino and his wife arrive from their overtures in town, they head straight to the sea to hunt for pearls. Before they join the other pearlers, Juana applied seaweed on the scorpion wound on Coyotito’s shoulder. While in the sea, Kino finds the pearl of the world- a fortune that may change his life forever.
Defeated by their own poverty, Juana decides to use traditional remedy to heal the scorpion wound on her son. Although the method had been tried and tested as an effective method to cure scorpion bites, Juana does not trust it the way she believes in western medicine.
The news of Kino’s find spreads throughout the town. For the first time Kino’s house becomes vibrant with people milling around to see the great pearl. The priest pays them a visit and early into the night, the doctor visits to offer his belated services to Coyotito who had been bitten by a scorpion.
Although Kino bears delusions of grandeur, he realises that the great pearl also poses a great danger to him and his family. The fortune of the pearl is his because he found it but others would also want to gain it. That night while asleep, someone tries to steal it from him. The deeply superstitious Juana believes that the pearl is evil. She begs Kino to throw it away. Kino reassures her that he is a man and he would not let anything harm them.
Although everyone in the neighbourhood is happy for Kino, their intentions are varied. The priest, for instance, sees how the great pearl will be of benefit to him and the church. The doctor, on the other hand, comes to claim his rightful share by ‘curing’ Coyotito. Despite this, there is growing envy for the pearl that some people are ready to rob while on the other hand, Kino is ready to put his family at risk to safeguard his hard earned wealth.
Kino takes his pearl to the local dealers in town hoping to get a windfall. Just like when he took his son to the doctor, Kino is followed by a crowd of spectators who want to witness this historic occasion. In town, the dealers are ready to see the great pearl, but working for one man, the dealers offer pea nuts for the pearls brought in by Kino’s people. On this occasion, they went too far by cutting down the price that Kino refuses to part with his pearl. Kino feels cheated.
It is evident that Kino’s people have no idea on how pearls are being sold in other parts of the country. They are at the mercy of the pearl buyers in their local town. Any attempts to venture outside La Paz have never born any fruits. But Kino is determined to get a fair price. He plans to leave the town.
Later in the evening, Kino is attacked by unknown assailants who search him without finding the pearl. Although there is fear allover, Kino is determined to see this through. He is determined to secure his son’s future and that hope gives him the strength to fight the fear building up in him. His wife Juana on the other hand is concerned more with her family’s security than the hope glistening in the pearl.
Kino is so obsessed with the promise of wealth hidden in the pearl that he fails to see the immediate danger lurking behind the darkness. Although Juana acts as a voice of reason, the unassailable hope in Kino trumps reason and Juana has nothing to do but agree with her man for he is ‘a man.’
While Kino is asleep, Juana wakes up stealthily, retrieves the pearl and tries to dispose of the evil pearl before it ruins her family. However, she is confronted by Kino who hits her hard in attempt to seize the pearl before it is thrown into the sea.
After attacking his wife, Kino was along the shore to cool his anger when he is also confronted by unknown assailants. In the ensuing struggle, Kino kills a man. But he is wounded. Juana comes to help him. She picks up the pearl which Kino thinks has been taken and hands it back to her husband.
Since Kino had killed a man, they plan to escape before they are attacked by the people of the town. Juana rushes to the house to get Coyotitto and some belongings while Kino goes to the boat. Meanwhile, Kino’s house is put on fire and his boat broken. He has nowhere to go.
Nevertheless, Juan Tomas offers Kino refuge as the day breaks in order that he could hide from the people looking for him. When the evening comes, Kino and his wife live La Paz on the journey to go north and sell the pearl.
Having lived his entire life in poverty, Kino is ready to hold onto the pearl with his dear life as the final hope. He will do anything including spanking his wife and kill a man to at least get a glimpse of what good fortune had placed on his table. He even forgets that the only reason he had hoped for the pearl in the beginning was to get money to take Coyotitto to the hospital. The pearl seems to have blinded Kino and estranged him from his community.
Kino embarks on the journey northwards in order to find a better price for his pearl. He is accompanied with Juana and his infant son Coyotito. Although Kino covers his tracks carefully, he is quickly followed by three trackers who trace his journey into a forest and a rocky hill.
Kino manages to kill all the trackers but in the process a stray bullet kills Coyotito. Now Kino has nothing to do because all his hopes and dreams die with his son. Empowered and armed with a gun he salvaged from the dead trackers, Kino and Juana return back to La Paz. Their first mission is to throw the pearl back to the sea where it belonged.
Kino seems determined to change his life and his hope lies in the pearl. The pearl gives him energy that kills three assailants. However, he realizes too late that his fight was bringing more harm than the anticipated good. He gives up on his quest, and returns the distasteful pearl to the see.