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Juana’s Character in “The Pearl”

Steinbeck’s novella “The Pearl” was written in 1947 telling the story about a poor Mexican fellow and a magnificent pearl. The main ideas embodied in the novel are: money are the source of evil; ignorance will inevitably result in oppression and subjugation; people are not what they seem at first glance; evil exist in many forms and goodness doesn’t mean learning. And all the themes came across the main heroine of the novella – Juana. Her character is simple and simultaneously a little contradictive. (Steinbeck 1947)

Juana is a really perfect wife as she is gracious and always puts her husband and son before herself. Juana surely fits all the characteristics belonged to the image of perfect wife and perfect mother. Her name means “woman” and therefore through the novella’s progression she is always put into the difficult position. Concerning her appearance it is known only that she has long black hair put up with braids and green ribbon. Firstly it seems that Juana is not a hazard person as she knowing that her husband, Kino, is wrong, prefers not to show him his faults.

However, then it is seen that she puts her life in danger for the sake of her son and husband. (Steinbeck 1947) Therefore Juana is characterized as a loyal person being able to think sensibly and to make serious decisions to save those people she loves most of all. However, when thinking about Juana’s loyalty, the first idea strikes the mind – Juana’s loyalty is similar to dog that is loyal to its master. It means that the main heroine is loyal to her husband in spite of his bad treatment. For the sake of the family Juana prefers to avoid any conflict and anything that is in her way.

Although Juana is shown in the background of the novella, it is possible to suggest that she is the protagonist with her husband taking the second place. Juana belongs to the Indian folk and therefore she has inherited the inborn superstition. For example, when the scorpion bites Kino, Juana makes up the decision to use sorcery to the Gods ending her message with ironical “Hail Mary”. (Steinbeck 1947) The day when Kino returns with the oysters, Juana is trying to persuade him not to open the biggest oyster thinking that Gods will be displeased they are too eager.

Nevertheless primitive knowledge f incantation is used by Juana to the advantage of her family. For example, when Juana’s son is bitten by scorpion instead of seeing the doctor, Juana uses the greatest measures to save her child. It is the evidence of her courage and readiness to sacrifices. When her husband is attacked by evil forces, Juana cleans his wounds and cures him with a soothing Indian native drink. Although Juana is not a clever woman, she knows how to use her acquired knowledge. (Steinbeck 1947)

It is seen through novella progression that Juana adores her husband and when she see her husband has become too greedy and avid for money, she even tries to talk him into throwing away the pearl considering it the main problem. When Kino is attacked by natural evil, people, Juana realizes that it is the pearl that possesses the destructive powers, and begs her husband to get rid of it: “Throw it away, Kino. Let us break it between stones. Let us bury it and forget the place. Let us throw it back into the sea. It has brought evil.

Kino, my husband, it will destroy us”. (Steinbeck 1947)When Kino is attacked for the second time, Juana understands it is the only chance for her to take matters into her hands. She finds the pearls and attempts to cast it away back into the gulf. However, she is stopped by her husband seizing the pearl with a rage and striking her to the ground. Nevertheless, as it was mentioned Juana is obedient person, therefore she accepts such punishment without any objections realizing that pearl is a pert of her existence.

It is the evidence that Juana is involved into the main conflict of novella: character vs. character, Juana vs. Kino. Juana thinks pearl is danger to her family; Kino thinks it is the only chance to become wealth. The next conflict flowing is female sensitiveness vs. male greediness. Juana doesn’t image another way of life and after being kicked she prefers to accompany her husband to the city: “Although she [Juana] might be puzzles by these differences between man and woman, she knew them and accepted them and needed them.

Of course she would follow him, there was no question of that. Sometimes the quality of woman, the reason, the caution, the sense of preservation, could cut through Kino’s meanness and save them all. ” (Steinbeck 1947) Such situation is outrageous for modern world and it is admitted even that Juana lacks self-respect and self-esteem to withstand husband’s brutality. Juana’s most dominant strength is being strong-willed and determined character. For example, when doctor appears to unable to visit her dying son, she says: “Then we will go to him.

” However, the price for such determination is paid in full: death of her son and brutal treatment of her husband. Nevertheless, Juan seems to be simpler than Kino, she is more reflective and practical. “She could stand fatigue and hunger almost better than Kino himself. In the canoe she was like a strong man. ” (Steinbeck 1947) Juana is inborn mother and wife being devoted to her son ad husband. Although Juana is the first to be seduced by the greediness awakened by the pearl, she is the first to realize its evil power. Juana is not simply Kino’s wife; she is his strength and his anchor.

Juana is a perfect wife considering husband as the most important person in the life. Juana is loyal, strong, hardworking, almost subservient performing house duties and uncomplaining. She remains levelheaded when the tragedy occurs. She was brought up with admonitions to love and to care, to be strong in difficult situations. With the action progression Juana is sure that rules, limitations and customs of her present society have to be followed and upheld believing that everything will turn for better if to keep all the things as they are. (Steinbeck 1947)

Juana is an interesting character and it is her loyalty, determination, courage, strength and innate ability that make her attractive for readers. Juana is obedient, patient, peaceful, calm and cheerful at the same time. Juana is the eternal symbol of domestic happiness. She presents also the main function in “The Pearl” – she counterbalances her husband’s enthusiasm reminding readers in such a way that wealth and money are dangerous things.


Steinbeck, John (ed. Wagner, Jack). (1947). The Pearl. New York, NY: Mastervision. ISBN: 1559191511.

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