No gray area here, guys. The Pearl as a parable, and good and evil are shown in absolute, black-and-white terms. The family is good; greed is evil. Love is good; destruction is evil. Oppressive colonization, corrupt capitalism, and racism all go on the "evil" list... which we have to say is a tad longer than the "good" one.
In this novel, the only thing that stands outside the clear evil vs. good dichotomy is the pearl itself—it simply reflects what is around it (which is, um, lots o' evil). That the pearl ends up reflecting evil is an indication of The Pearl’s grim view of the world.
Questions About Good vs. Evil
- Everyone seems to suffer from greed and selfish motives in The Pearl. Does that make them evil? If all the neighbors, doctors, priests, buyers, trackers, townsfolk are "bad," then how can we blame them for having what seem to be universal human traits?
- Is the pearl itself good, evil, or neither?
- Does good or evil triumph at the end of The Pearl?
Chew on This
Because The Pearl is so entrenched in its overly-simplistic views of good and evil, it is incapable of serving effectively as a critique of society’s flaws.
The plot of The Pearl is driven by a constant struggle between the morally opposite forces of good and evil. Evil in The Pearl can appear in both man (the doctor) and nature (the scorpion); both evil man (the doctor) and good man (Kino); both ugly shape (the scorpion) and beautiful shape (the pearl). While the scorpion’s evil takes the form of lethal poison, man’s evil throughout the novel takes the form of overriding greed. The doctor, for instance, is evil because he acts upon greed over human care and professional responsibility. Similarly, the neighbors are evil when they act upon greed over neighborly respect, and Kino is evil when he acts upon greed over love for his wife.
Evil in the novel is an omnipotent, destructive force. One must either bear it (as in the case of the scorpion) or avoid it (as in the case of the pearl), because to combat it only breeds more evil. When Kino tries to fight off the thieves and protect the pearl, for instance, he ends up committing acts of evil himself, on both the thieves and his wife. Kino does destroy the evil-bearers that act to harm his family—he squashes the scorpion, kills the trackers, throws the pearl into the ocean—but he only succeeds in doing so after the evil has run its course and the poison has already seeped in.