Everything I Never Told You

Doctors Symbol Icon

For almost her entire life, Marilyn is obsessed with becoming a doctor. It is a dream she has harbored since childhood, and whenever she faces opposition (mostly in the form of sexist prejudice against the idea of a female doctor), it only makes her more fervently attached to the ambition. Yet after marrying James and giving birth to Nath and Lydia, what was once a plausible goal becomes further and further out of Marilyn’s reach. Despite this change of circumstances, Marilyn remains obsessively fixated on the world of medicine, so much so that it leads her to strange and irrational behavior, such as driving to the Middlewood hospital for no reason. Upon learning that Janet Wolff is a doctor, Marilyn experiences a kind of emotional break, which eventually leads her to run away from her family and finish her undergraduate studies at a community college in Toledo. When she is ultimately forced to abandon her goal of becoming a doctor, Marilyn displaces her ambitions by projecting them onto Lydia. From a young age, Lydia is aware that Marilyn wishes to live out her own dream through Lydia, and Lydia describes Marilyn’s heart as “drumming one beat: doctor, doctor, doctor.” Although being a doctor revolves around healing and caring for people, the novel places the role of “doctor” in opposition to the role of being a good mother. Mrs. Allen accuses Janet of neglecting Jack during her shifts at the hospital, and it is Marilyn’s unrealized medical ambitions that lead her to cause pain to Lydia and other members of her family.

Doctors Quotes in Everything I Never Told You

The Everything I Never Told You quotes below all refer to the symbol of Doctors. 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:
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Everything I Never Told You published in 2015.
Chapter 6 Quotes

It was a sign, Marilyn decided. For her it was too late. But it wasn't too late for Lydia. Marilyn would not be like her own mother, shunting her daughter toward husband and house, a life spent safely behind a deadbolt. She would help Lydia do everything she was capable of. She would spend the rest of her years guiding Lydia, sheltering her, the way you tended a prize rose: helping it grow, propping it with stakes, arching each stem toward perfection… She buried her nose in Lydia's hair and made silent promises. Never to tell her to sit up straight, to find a husband, to keep a house. Never to suggest that there were jobs or lives or worlds not meant for her; never to let her hear doctor and think only man. To encourage her, for the rest of her life, to do more than her mother had.

Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

“I didn't care. I knew what I wanted. I was going to be a doctor." She glares at James, as if he has contradicted her. “Then—fortunately—l came to my senses. I stopped trying to be different. I did just what all the other girls were

doing. I got married. I gave all that up." A thick bitterness coats her tongue. "Do what everyone else is doing. That's all you ever said to Lydia. Make friends. Fit in. But I didn't want her to be just like everyone else." The rims of her eyes ignite. "I wanted her to be exceptional."

Related Characters: Marilyn Lee (speaker), Lydia Lee, James Lee
Related Symbols: Doctors
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:
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Doctors Symbol Timeline in Everything I Never Told You

The timeline below shows where the symbol Doctors appears in Everything I Never Told You. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...wants to take physics, and Marilyn explains it is because she wants to be a doctor. The professor asks if Marilyn doesn’t really want to be a nurse. However, Marilyn was... (full context)
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...remains intensely dedicated to her academic work, stimulated by the vision of herself in a doctor’s white coat. She is determined to make a life for herself that doesn’t resemble her... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...herself that when the child is older, she will finish her studies and become a doctor. (full context)
Chapter 3
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...the people there except Janet Wolff, who wears a black suit instead of her usual doctor’s white coat. Louisa Chen is there, along with a few professors from Middlewood. Although the... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...Jack has a reputation for “deflowering virgins” unceremoniously in his car. Janet’s job as a doctor means she works nights at the hospital, leaving Jack alone. At school, Jack is a... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...who she hoped Lydia would be as an adult. Lydia had wanted to be a doctor since she was a child, and her scientific books, poster of Marie Curie, and science... (full context)
Chapter 4
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...before driving through Middlewood to the hospital. She sits in the waiting room, watching the doctors and nurses hurry past. Janet emerges and Marilyn doesn’t recognize her until a nurse calls... (full context)
Chapter 6
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...to the hospital, where a young blond woman treats her hand. Marilyn asks if the doctor shouldn’t be the one stitching her hand; the woman laughs and explains that she is... (full context)
Chapter 7
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...for the Equal Rights Amendment gathers momentum. Marilyn fantasizes about seeing Lydia in a white doctor’s coat, “a ring of men awed at her deft handiwork.” (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...most recent failed test by the return from Christmas break. Lydia knows that the word “doctor” is the heartbeat of Marilyn’s life. She tries to forge Marilyn’s signature, but it is... (full context)
Chapter 10
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...Radcliffe, but adds that she didn’t care because she knew she wanted to be a doctor. Marilyn bitterly accuses James of always encouraging Lydia to fit in, while Marilyn “wanted her... (full context)