Contes à l'envers
par Philippe Dumas
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The Pearl—The pearl represents evil in its most destructive form by masquerading as good. The pearl at first represents hope, health, and prosperity for Kino and his family. However, it also inspires greed in the less noble. Moreover, it follows on the heels of the other two evils already introduced into the story by way of the scorpion and the doctor. Both the scorpion and the doctor seem to work in conjunction to draw Kino away from the peace he knows through traditional living. Inevitably, the pearl pushes Kino over the edge into a world governed by fancy, whim, and force of will. As others try to force their will onto Kino through manipulation, deception, or by outright theft and/or violence, Kino must struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the dream that the pearl has granted him. The pearl is evil because it destroys by way of seduction: It convinces the bearer of it that his wildest dreams will come true, yet all the pearl is really worth is whatever the next buyer is willing to give for it.
The pearl is also a metaphor for the creation of sin or vice in man. Just as the pearl starts off as a grain of sand in the mouth of an oyster, man starts out with grain of evil within him. This evil may be ambiguous and undefined, but it is there in Kino and Juana and their lack of faith and trust in their traditions. As their faith is placed more and more in the dreams inspired by the pearl, their own sins grow—just as the pearl grows in the oyster, coated over and over again with more and more layers that are meant to soothe the irritation but, of course, only add to it.
The Sea—The sea is seen as both a healer and a destroyer. It yields the right medicine for Coyotito, but it also produces storms that can destroy life. Its fruits, such as oysters and pearls, can sustain the villagers, but sometimes it offers fruits that are more harmful than helpful, such as Kino’s pearl. What is required in dealing with the sea is prudence and moderation. When Juana abandons the sea’s ointments in favor of the doctor’s, she unwittingly sets the family on a path of destruction. When Kino abandons the sea for the mountains (in an attempt to escape from his pursuers), he inadvertently leads his family into a death trap. The lesson is to accept the good that the sea gives, but beware the evil that sometimes lurks behind the good, hoping to snare the righteous.
The Canoe—The canoe represents Kino’s livelihood and tradition. Handed down to him from his grandfather, the canoe has been protected from wear and tear by constant application of a traditionally produced coating. The coating itself is a symbol of the villagers’ adherence to helpful customs. When the canoe is smashed, it symbolizes Kino’s own departure from custom—his departure from the custom of trusting in nature’s remedies, his departure from the custom of selling to the buyers in town, and his departure from his custom of simple living.
Tradition—Tradition plays a major role in The Pearl. The very story itself is set up as a parable, which is an ancient form of narrative used to convey important morals and/or teachings. Thus, The Pearl is founded in a literary style that is itself highly traditional. Tradition, furthermore, is embedded into the plot. It is tradition that is most important to Kino and his life with his family on the beach. Every morning is like the last, and he is content. However, there are within Kino the signs of deviation from tradition; for example, he has not married in the church, as custom prescribes. The reason is unclear, but it is said to have something to do with money. Then, with Coyotito’s illness, Kino and Juana depart further from tradition by seeking the assistance of the doctor who is known only to assist the upper classes. This is an extraordinary action on their part, and once again, the reason is unclear. Nevertheless, their initial departure from the traditional methods of dealing with scorpion stings propels them onward to the pearl, which completely upturns Kino’s life as he ignores all traditional prudence, asserts his own will, and trusts in his own strength and manliness. He is strong and manly, as is demonstrated, but these virtues are not enough to sustain him against the evil that follows the pearl.
The Song of the Family—This is the song that Kino sings when he is in harmony with tradition and with God (or the gods—as the author himself points out, illustrating the ambiguous nature of Kino’s stance with regard to the eternal). The Song of the Family is a product of the ancient songs the elders sang in the past; here it is Kino’s song, and it includes all that is good in life. It is the song that he lives for, and it is this song that the pearl ultimately displaces, even as it promises to make the Song of the Family even better. The real song that the pearl inspires is The Song of Dreams, or more accurately, The Song of Evil.
“The Song of Evil”—The Song of Evil is first introduced by way of the scorpion. It comes to disrupt the Song of the Family and to try to destroy it. It is pronounced again by the doctor, who does not care for the family but only for his own dreams of France. It is finally conducted by the pearl, which promises a better song for the family, but in reality only brings destruction. The Song of the Family can only be maintained by simplicity, humility, acceptance, and adherence to tradition.
“Go with God”—This is often said by Juan Thomas and Juana, and is repeated by Kino. There is a certain measure of awe, menace, and dread that accompany the utterance, and it is tinged with both hopefulness and fear. There are tones of fatalism in the expression, felt keenly by Kino as he does battle with the evil that threatens to overwhelm him. The sense is that Kino was in fact going with God at the beginning of the narrative, but that with the introduction of evil (first through the scorpion, then the doctor, and finally the pearl) Kino has abandoned God’s way and relied solely upon his own strength to secure his happiness. Each reminder to go with God is, for Kino, like a sharp prick to his conscience. Ultimately, Kino does go back to God’s way by renouncing the pearl and returning to his village (and accepting his poverty and place in the world), but he pays a terrible price for his deviation.Inscrivez-vous pour trouver des essais sur Philippe Dumas >