Les Trophées

par

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José-Maria de Heredia

Chapter 4

This chapter begins with a description of the way a town functions. When every unit—every man, woman, and child—operates according to custom, then the town goes peacefully on its way. On the other hand, when one unit steps out of the ordinary and does something different, all of the parts of the town sense it and communicate to the whole. This is the case with Kino when he decides to sell his pearl. Everyone knows about it and feels it, from the altar boys at mass to the Chinese grocery store owners.

Then a description of pearl buying is given. In the old days, the pearl buyers competed against each other so that the fisherman could receive a good price. Now, though, there is only one pearl buyer who exercises a monopoly over the trade. This one buyer has many hands who are all acting on his behalf. Thus, each “buyer” is acting in conjunction with one another so as to pay the lowest price possible. This arrangement does not bode well for the fisherman.

The neighbors, meanwhile, talk among themselves and imagine what Kino might do with the pearl. Some speculate that he will give it as a gift to the Holy Father, while others suppose that he will sell it and distribute the wealth among the poor. All hope that the pearl does not change Kino’s character. They, too, sense that power and wealth are dangerous enticements. They seem to be aware of the pearl’s evil; they like Kino and do not want him to be destroyed by it.

Kino and Juana set off to the market with the neighbors following to see what will happen. Kino wears his hat tilted aggressively forward. Steinbeck notes that much can be told from the way a man wears his hat.

Juan Thomas reminds Kino that he must be sure not to be cheated. He tells the story of the old days when the men sent their pearls off with a seller whom they trusted to get better prices for them in the capital, but from whom they never heard again. Kino admits it was a good idea in theory but that in reality it did not work well. Then Kino reminds Juan Thomas of the priest’s sermon, which he makes every year—that it is every man’s duty to protect that part of the universe in which God has stationed him.

The first buyer offers Kino a thousand pesos. Kino protests that it is worth 50 thousand. The buyer complains that the pearl is too large and would not easily sell on the market, that it would only be bought, perhaps, as a curiosity by a museum and placed in a collection of seashells. The crowd grumbles at the buyer’s offer, and the buyer (cool and collected until now) feels a sensation of fear. He calls for the other appraisers to support him.

The crowd, however, admits that the pearl does have a strange color and that they have been suspicious of it from the start. They reflect that a thousand pesos is more than Kino had yesterday, which was nothing, and that perhaps he ought to accept it. Still, Kino is adamant. He senses evil all around him and is determined to get what he feels he deserves.

Three new dealers arrive. The first dismisses the pearl as a monstrosity and says that he does not want it. The second dealer analyzes it and says that it will die shortly and lose its color. The third offers 500 pesos. Kino snatches the pearl from them and says he will go to the capital himself. The dealers become nervous. The initial buyer ups his offer to 1500 pesos, but Kino leaves them.

The town discusses Kino’s actions. Some say he has cut off his own head by refusing their offers. Others are impressed by Kino’s courage and are proud of him. Kino, meanwhile, broods in his hut. He feels that he has lost one world and not gained another. He is in a kind of limbo. He is afraid.

Juan Thomas visits. He tells Kino that he has defied not just the buyers but an entire structure and that he is afraid for his brother. He says he is voyaging into new territory. He does not know what will happen. Kino acknowledges as much, but he still insists that he must try. Juan Thomas tells him to “go with God.” Kino repeats the admonition and feels a strange sensation.

That evening, an assassin tries to kill Kino outside the hut in the dark. Juana rushes out to help fend off the killer. By the time she gets there, Kino is alone on the ground. His face is cut and he is bleeding, but he is still alive. Juana begs Kino to throw the pearl in the sea, where it belongs. She says again that it is evil and will destroy them all. Kino, however, says that he is a man and that he will defeat the evil.

In this chapter, the attempt to sell the pearl is met with deception on the part of the buyers. They conspire to undermine the seller, for they all work for one man above them. Kino cannot obtain a fair price, so he elects to override the buyers by going directly to the capital himself. This is an unprecedented move, however. Kino’s brother seems to echo the fear of Juana, which is that this pearl will bring trouble. Perhaps, after all, it is better to accept the offer of the buyers. Nonetheless, Kino is determined to see the pearl sold for a great price, regardless of the consequences.

Chapter 5

In the middle of the night, Kino wakes up to find Juana leaving the hut. He follows her as she moves toward the beach. She hears him and breaks into a run. She intends to throw the pearl into the sea. He catches her, hits her in the face, and kicks her in the side. He is enraged and murderous. She is not afraid. He takes the pearl from her and turns his back on her, disgusted that she should try to rob him of his new dream.

As he walks back to the hut, he is attacked once more by assassins. In the struggle, he kills one of the men. The pearl, meanwhile, rolls away from him, and he thinks it is lost. However, Juana has emerged from the brush and found the pearl. She also sees that a man is dead and that they cannot return to the old peace of their life. Now they must flee, so she returns the pearl to Kino. They pack their things and go to depart in Kino’s canoe.

They find that a hole has been put in Kino’s canoe. This is worse than killing man; this is killing his past, his work, his inheritance. Kino does not even think to take one of his neighbor’s canoes. Such an action would be indecent. He heads back to the hut, only to find that it has been set on fire. Daylight is beginning to show, so Kino draws his family into the shade; he is afraid of the light. He heads for his brother’s hut and asks Juan Thomas to hide them. Juan Thomas tells him that there is a devil in the pearl and that maybe he could still sell it, but Kino, insulted by the destruction of his canoe and home, ignores the admonition.

The neighbors speculate about what has happened to Kino and Juana, but Juan Thomas and his wife Apolonia cover for them and do not give their whereabouts away. In the evening, Juan Thomas bids Kino and Juana farewell. He tells Kino that even now men are looking for him, and that he should steer clear of the shore. He tells him to “go with God” again, but this time it is like a death sentence. He asks whether Kino will give up the pearl. Kino says that the pearl has become his soul and that if he loses it, he will lose his soul.

In this chapter, Kino shows that he has traded over his formerly contented soul for a soul of dreams. He has lost his faith and confidence in the old Song of the Family. He has struck his wife and lost his canoe, which was his livelihood. Now the pearl is everything to him, even though he knows that it is his misfortune to bear. Should he lose the pearl, however, the despair will be too much for him. He is afraid of facing a world without his old song and with no dreams to replace it. He will see the adventure of the pearl through to the bitter end.

Chapter 6

Kino and Juana head through town in the direction of Loreto. An allusion is made to a miracle involving the mother of Christ. Some of the old world still exists, and it is toward this idea that Kino and Juana head. Their journey has now become like a journey back to the good they once possessed. Unfortunately, as long as they are possessed by the pearl, they cannot reach that old world. Kino is operating according to a primal spirit of survival.

In his mind he hears the music of pearl, and below it plays the melody of the family. As they go on, however, the music of the pearl becomes sinister to him. He sees Juana’s beaten face, and he hides the pearl in his clothing.

Trackers arrive, and Kino panics. In his desperation, he runs with Juana and the baby for the mountains. There is no water here, and it is a symbolic point that the author makes. In abandoning the sea, they have abandoned grace and the old world. Now they must climb a rocky and barren path while evil pursues them. Without grace, Kino loses courage and even contemplates whether it is better to let himself be caught. He is in despair. He knows they will find the pearl. Still, they push onward. He does not attempt to cover his tracks as he did previously. Kino hears the evil music loudly in his ears.

Kino tells Juana to take the baby and head north toward Loreto and that he will catch up with them once he loses the trackers, but she refuses to abandon him.

They reach a tiny spring in the mountain, which gives them a chance to drink and rest. Night falls, and Kino waits for the trackers to approach. Finally, he sees a match flare in the distance. Its light reveals three men: two asleep, and one on watch. Kino plans to attack the watcher and get his rifle. Juana tells him to “go with God.”

As Kino crawls out of the cave where Juana and the baby are hiding, his wife utters Hail Marys and ancient magic, again combining the pagan with the Christian. Kino, meanwhile, is driven by the Song of the Family in his ears; this song is compelling him to defend himself from the evil of the trackers.

The baby’s cries suddenly make the men alert. They cannot tell if it is a coyote or a human baby. The watcher fires the rifle, anyway. Kino attacks him with his knife, takes the rifle, strikes another man in the head with its butt, and then aims at the third, who is attempting to escape. Kino fires and kills him.

Now a new signal tries to capture Kino’s attention. His head clears, and he recognizes the sound—it is a moan coming from the cave. It is a moan of death.

Steinbeck flashes forward to the return of Kino and Juana and their reception back in the town of La Paz. The author describes their return: Kino carrying the rifle, and Juana carrying her shawl like a sack. In it is the dead Coyotito.

Their expressions are formed by their journey through pain and suffering. Having come out at the other end, they now seem to be surrounded by a magical protection, as though all human experience were removed from them. In Kino’s ears is the Song of the Family—but now it is like a battle cry.

They walk straight to the sea. Kino takes out the pearl and hears its insane music. He holds it out, but Juana declines his invitation to throw it. He himself flings it into the sea with all of his might. The pearl catches the light of the setting sun, glinting as it flies through the air. It plunges into the deep and disappears in the cloud of sand, kicked up by a crab. The music of the pearl also disappears.

In this chapter, the tale is concluded. The music of the pearl is like the siren song, meant to lure Odysseus and his ship into the rocks so that they might crash and die. Kino does not learn this lesson, however, until his own son is killed by the bullet set lose by the trackers. In all, five have died because of the pearl—and no one has gotten any richer. What the pearl promised, it did not deliver. It was merely in the vain imagination of Kino. Had he and Juana simply trusted the old ways and customs and not deviated from what they knew, they would have had no need for the pearl. They would not have even felt the desire to look for it. Their sole intention, after all, was to find a pearl that would allow them to afford the doctor for Coyotito. Yet all along, the sea had the solution for that: The seaweed poultice helped heal the child better than the doctor could. The pearl was vanity. Believing in it, Juana and Kino lost what was most precious to them—their baby, their way of life (Kino’s canoe), their home, and their past. In the end, they had to choice but to return the pearl to the sea. Only then could they possibly attempt to rebuild their life on the coast.

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