Cléopâtre captive


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Étienne Jodelle

Kino—Kino is the main character in the parable that Steinbeck relates to the reader. He is a young husband, a descendant of generations of fishermen and pearl divers. Kino lives an uncomplicated life and appreciates the harmony that surrounds him, from the way the sun rises each day to the simple satisfaction given by a regular and ordinary breakfast prepared by his young wife. All of these things rouse in him the notes of what Steinbeck calls the Song of the Family. It links Kino to his ancestors, who knew many songs; it also links him to the harmony found in nature and to a spiritual harmony that he seems to have found (with little thanks to the priest).

Kino’s problems arise when he breaks from the traditions he knows to be good and true. This break comes when the Song of Evil is introduced into his life by the scorpion, which stings his young child Coyotito. Kino, rather than trusting in the medicine of his people, allows himself to be led by the emotional reaction of his wife, who convinces him that the only cure for Coyotito can come from the town doctor—who, of course, wants a hefty payment for such services. Kino dives for a great pearl in the hope of paying off the doctor—and finds one. However, this pearl is a destroyer, not a healer, and it seduces Kino even further from his Song of the Family by inspiring him to compose a song that is a dream. This new dream song that Kino composes suppresses his original song of the family. The problem is that the dream song of the pearl is like a siren song, and it is capable of inspiring great evil in the form of greed and delusion.

Kino pursues the ends promised by the pearl to the detriment of his own family. He beats Juana when she tries to take action against the pearl’s evil influence. He kills (in self-defense) four men who try to steal the pearl from him, and he loses his baby in the fighting. Kino is poorer at the end of the parable of the pearl than he was at the beginning—all because he sacrificed his Song of the Family and his traditions for the deceptive song of the pearl.

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