The Pearl

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The doctor Character Analysis

The doctor is the ultimate embodiment of evil and greed in The Pearl. The opposite of what one would expect of a doctor, whose job is to care for others, he is selfish, indulgent, and malevolent, and cares only about his own wealth and pleasure. He lives alone (his wife is dead) and lies in bed all day, eating candies and chocolate. When he is first asked to care for Coyotito, he refuses and cruelly proclaims that he is not a “veterinarian.” As soon as he hears of Kino’s pearl, however, he falsely claims that he always intended to treat the baby. It is not clear, then, whether the treatment he uses on Coyotito is effective, or if he just manipulates Coyotito’s condition to worsen and then improve, making himself look good. All he cares about is getting Kino’s pearl and it can be assumed, given that he watches Kino’s eyes so closely to see if they indicate the pearl’s location, that he is responsible for at least one of the violent nighttime theft attempts in Kino's house.

The doctor Quotes in The Pearl

The The Pearl quotes below are all either spoken by The doctor or refer to The doctor. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Community Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Pearl published in 2002.
Chapter 1 Quotes

This doctor was of a race which for nearly four hundred years had beaten and starved and robbed and despised Kino’s race, and frightened it too, so that the indigene came humbly to the door.

Related Characters: Kino, The doctor
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

The perfect morning is irreparably broken when Coyotito is stung on the shoulder by a scorpion. Though Juana quickly sucks out the poison, Kino and Juana fear for their baby's life. Determined to have him healed, Juana declares that they will bring Coyotito to the doctor. In this quote, the narrator notes that the doctor is of a different race than Kino, Juana, and Coyotito. He is a white descendant of Europeans who brutally colonized the lands on which Kino's ancestors have lived for thousands of years. As a result, the doctor has money and influence whereas Kino's people have been subjected to poverty. Collective memory therefore leaves Kino and the townspeople afraid of white people like the doctor, who have historically been cruel and violent to the indigenous people in the area. Juana and Kino's determination to have Coyotito treated by the white doctor is therefore viewed by the town as an act of bravery.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

She gathered some brown seaweed and made a flat damp poultice of it, and this she applied to the baby’s swollen shoulder, which was as good a remedy as any and probably better than the doctor could have done. But the remedy lacked his authority because it was simple and didn’t cost anything.

Related Characters: Juana, Coyotito, The doctor
Related Symbols: The Scorpion
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Having been turned away from the doctor's home, Juana creates a poultice from seaweed to soothe the baby's sting. In this quote, the narrator notes that while this remedy is likely just as effective as the doctor's treatment would have been, Juana views it as unsatisfactory because it was hastily created by her and not by an expensive white doctor with a degree. This point of view represents the influence that colonization has had on the indigenous people in La Paz. Though Juana and Kino's people have been living in the region for thousands of years, the sudden influx and brutality of Europeans with rifles forced them to become second-class citizens. European dominance has meant that luxuries such as schools and advanced medical care are too expensive for the subjugated natives to afford. Since Kino and Juana want absolutely the best for their son, they are determined to have him treated by a rich white doctor, whose people have thrived, albeit through cruel practices, in the region. By contrast, Juana's people have been murdered and subjugated, and thus internalized a sense of weakness that she associates with her poultice, regardless of how effective it is. She wants Coyotito to be healed by a doctor whose wealth and skin color are a kind of proof of strength and dominance.

Chapter 3 Quotes

And he could not take the chance of pitting his certain ignorance against this man’s possible knowledge. He was trapped as his people were always trapped, and would be until, as he had said, they could be sure that the things in the books were really in the books.

Related Characters: Kino, The doctor
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

The doctor hears about Kino's discovery of the pearl, and suddenly becomes interested in the young family with the injured baby. He goes to Kino's house, and asks to see Coyotito. He tells the worried parents that he has seen the attack of a scorpion sting many times before, and that Coyotito, though seemingly healing, is still in danger. In this quote, Kino is wary of the doctor's claims that Coyotito is still in danger of the scorpion's poison. Yet, he notes that he was "trapped," just as his people had been trapped by colonists for years. When the European colonists came with medicines, religion, and shiny tools--namely guns and rifles that forced the indigenous people into subjugation--the native people were forced to become second-class citizens on lands that their ancestors had occupied for thousands of years. Though Juana is determined to have Coyotito treated by the doctor because he has knowledge and medicines, Kino is skeptical of believing everything the white colonists have to say, just because it comes from books that their people have written. However, he cannot be sure that his skepticism is worth denying his only son treatment, and lets the doctor see Coyotito.

[The doctor] held the eyelid down. “See—it is blue.” And Kino, looking anxiously, saw that indeed it was a little blue. And he didn’t know whether or not it was always a little blue. But the trap was set. He couldn’t take the chance.

Related Characters: The doctor (speaker), Kino, Coyotito, The doctor
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

After examining Coyotito, the doctor points to a blue vein in the baby's eyelid, and claims it to be the poison from the scorpion's sting. Kino, though worried about his son, is still unsure whether the doctor is making things up that he knows Juana and Kino will believe, or if the baby is actually sick.The doctor gives the baby a little bit of powder, claiming that the poison will "attack within the hour." Sure enough, the baby begins to vomit, and the doctor treats him again, saying he has saved Coyotito's life. The reader is left unsure as to whether Coyitoto was actually still ill, or if the first powder the doctor feeds to the baby is poison to make him vomit and thus seem that the doctor saved Coyotito, so that Juana and Kino will feel indebted to him. Given the doctor's unsavory characterization, it is implied that the situation is likely the latter rather than the former. This, too, is Kino's instinct, though he is too nervous for his son's life to deny him treatment from a certified doctor.

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The doctor Character Timeline in The Pearl

The timeline below shows where the character The doctor appears in The Pearl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Community Theme Icon
Just as Kino is admiring her fortitude, Juana demands that the doctor be gotten. (full context)
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Her request, both wonderful and surprising (because the doctor never visits their neighborhood), spreads quickly through the neighbors. When word gets back that the... (full context)
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Value and Wealth Theme Icon
...there, who know everything about the town—the sins of its inhabitants, the bad ways of the doctor —pin Kino and Juana down as “poverty people,” and look on to see what will... (full context)
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At the doctor ’s gate, Kino hesitates, recalling that the doctor’s people had historically oppressed his own people.... (full context)
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
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The Doctor , fleshy and stout, is in his bed, drinking chocolate in a Parisian dressing gown... (full context)
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
When the servant tells the doctor about Kino and Juana, and Coyotito’s scorpion bite, the doctor becomes angry, insulted by the... (full context)
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Value and Wealth Theme Icon
The Doctor asks if Kino has any money, so the servant returns to the gate and asks... (full context)
Chapter 3
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When the doctor hears of Kino’s pearl, he openly declares that Kino is his client and that he... (full context)
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
The doctor arrives at the brush house, proclaiming his intention to see the baby, with his servant... (full context)
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
Kino replies that Coyotito is almost all better, but the doctor retorts that there often appears an improvement before a worsening. He shows his doctor’s bag,... (full context)
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Kino feels trapped between rage and fear, but finally lets the doctor enter. The doctor goes to Coyotito and points to the blueness of Coyotito’s wound, as... (full context)
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
The doctor feeds Coyotito a capsule with white powder and gelatin, predicts that the poison will attack... (full context)
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When the doctor has gone, Kino wraps the pearl in a rag and hides it in the floor... (full context)
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...Kino to show him Coyotito’s stomach spasms and flushed face, which convince the couple that the doctor knew what he was talking about. The neighbors gather when they hear of the sickness. (full context)
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Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
The doctor returns and declares that he is able to defeat the effect of the poison. He... (full context)
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Kino says that he will pay the doctor once he’s sold his pearl. The doctor feigns to not have heard about the pearl,... (full context)