The Pearl

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The Scorpion Symbol Analysis

The Scorpion Symbol Icon
The scorpion is a figure of pure evil, whose sole function in the novel is to do harm to the most innocent and powerless character, Coyotito. The scorpion symbolizes the evil that is found in nature, which is seemingly arbitrary and unmotivated, in contrast to the evil that is found in mankind, which is generally the result of selfish desire and greed.

The Scorpion Quotes in The Pearl

The The Pearl quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Scorpion. 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 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.

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The Scorpion Symbol Timeline in The Pearl

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Scorpion appears in The Pearl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...a movement from Coyotito’s hanging box and turn their heads to determine its source: a scorpion is climbing slowly down the rope of the hanging box, toward Coyotito. (full context)
Race, Tradition, and Oppression Theme Icon
As the scorpion moves further down the rope, Juana prays in a whisper, an ancient prayer as well... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Kino is reaching for the scorpion when it freezes in place and flicks its tail. Coyotito then laughs and shakes the... (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
From Coyotito’s shoulder, Kino takes the scorpion and squashes it angrily. Juana, meanwhile, tries to suck the poison out of Coyotito’s shoulder.... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
...the brush house at the sound of the baby’s cries. They all know that a scorpion bite can easily kill a baby, if sufficient poison has seeped in. (full context)
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
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 notion that he would deign to “cure... (full context)