Kino, Juana and their baby, Coyotito, live in a shack by the sea. They are indigenous as opposed to the conquerors living in the city nearby. Kino is a pearl diver as his ancestors have for generations. The family scrapes by, barely – they are so poor that Kino and Juana cannot afford to get married, or even have a christening for Coyotito.
When Kino wakes up in the early dawn, during cock-crowing, he looks at the stars in the sky and listens to the gentle morning waves; it’s a song, a Family song. Everything is in its place. There is harmony for him, for his family, and for his people.
That harmony is shattered when suddenly, a scorpion stabs Coyotito. Even though Juana manages to suck most of the poison away, they decide to go see a doctor. He lives in town like all the better people. However, the doctor does not want to treat Coyotito because Kino and Juana have no money. Dejected, they get back to the their shack in the beach. But Kino wants to treat Coyotito and rushes with Juana to their treasured blue canoe, passed down from generation to generation, to try to catch a pearl. It is an act of desperation as finding a pearl is very rare.
Miraculously, Kino does find a pearl from a hidden clam, and it’s a whopper of pearl! They fortune has changed! Kino and Juana start dreaming – about marriage, christening, new clothes, a rifle. The news spreads everywhere, even the doctor comes to treat Coyotito.
When Kino and Juana go see traders their dreams are shattered. All traders belong to the company and lowball Kino and Juana by offering only a small fraction of the proper value of the pearl. Dejected, Kino and Juana don’t sell but decide to go to a big city. The tragedy commences and it will become so much worse before the end. As Leonard Cohen sang in Everybody Knows
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
The Pearl is a fable, simply yet powerfully written.
P.S. I peaked as a writer in 8th grade. It was an assignment to write an alternative ending to a story. I chose The Pearl, propably because it was short (still the ultimate school reading assignment strategy). In my story, Kino and Juana, having prospered mightily (and the poor can become filthy rich), drop Coyotito to college. Coyotito, a bit spoiled & entitled brat already, has many adventures culminating, finally, in the midst of the Cuban revolution. You gotta fight the power!