The Pearl

The Pearl was my favorite DHARMA Initiative station.

It was the first working DHARMA station that we saw after the Hatch (I don’t count the Arrow, because there was nothing in there other than part of a video reel and a glass eye). More importantly, the Pearl made us say “whoa.”

In the short-term sense, it made us ask if the button just a big psychological experiment. In the long-term, it made us wonder what else was out there on the Island. Before we saw the Pearl, the Swan seemed like a stand-alone station. We never really got to know the Arrow, but the Pearl opened up a whole new world in a sense: literally anything could be out there somewhere on the Island.

There is a very good chance that the DHARMA station has nothing to do with John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl. But hey, it’s an excuse to read some Steinbeck and the story is marginally related to Hurley.

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The Pearl takes place in a poor Mexican village. Kino is a Native American who lives with his wife Juana and baby son Coyotito. The three have a stereotypical relationship: Kino and Juana barely talk, Kino takes care of making what little income he can, and Juana takes care of Coyotito. In one of the opening scenes, they eat breakfast together without so much as uttering a word. But they seem generally content with their lot in life. Like many poor families, they wait for their big break.

That big break comes in the form of a giant pearl that Kino finds when diving one day. The locals quickly dub it the Pearl of the World. Word travels instantly throughout the town among rich and poor alike. The poor people become Kino’s groupies. The rich suddenly want to help Kino, including a doctor that had previously refused service to Coyotito after he suffered a cobra bite.

The pearl seems to have a curse about it. It makes a weird sound and casts odd reflections. People begin talking and some wonder if Kino will become cursed by his newfound wealth. It is a classic “be careful what you wish for” situation.

Soon everybody but Kino comes to believe that the pearl is cursed. Even Juana wants Kino to throw the pearl back into the ocean, but he outright refuses because he only sees the potential wealth the pearl might bring.

Everybody else turns out to be right. Kino is lowballed by the pearl traders in town and proclaims that he will go to Mexico City to sell the pearl. Unfortunately for him, some person tries to steal the pearl that night. Kino experiences a rush of evil and murders the unknown assailant in the dark. Juana is stunned, but does her wifely duty and takes Coyotito with him as they go on the run.

A search party eventually finds the family. Kino again experiences a great rush of power and kills the hunters…but not before the unthinkable happens: a stray bullet kills Coyotito. In the closing scene, Kino and Juana again walk in silence toward the town, the dead body of Coyotito in tow.

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Kino’s problems should remind you of Hurley’s back story. Like Kino, Hurley hit it big through fate.

Kino dove for pearls. Hurley worked in a chicken shack. Kino found the Pearl of the World. Hurley hit the lottery with his magic numbers.

In both cases, our protagonist figures out that the lives they led weren’t as bad as they seemed. They came from humble beginnings and dreamed of being rich, but at what expense? Both lost loved ones and learned the proverbial lesson “money can’t buy love.”

The Pearl and Hurley’s story both touch on a theme that Lost touches on throughout the show – some variation of the relativism vs. absolutism issue. In both stories, we ask whether the pearl/numbers are actually cursed. Is there such a thing as pure evil that comes from an inanimate object? Or is the bad luck simply in each of our protagonist’s heads?

I suppose that’s for the reader or viewer to decide – there is really no right or wrong answer to that question.

Not a whole lot else here to unpack as it relates to Lost. Just a little reference that Hurley’s story may or may not be partially based on.

For more of my book reviews, return to the Literature of Lost series.

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