The successful novella called the Pearl was written in 1945 by John Steinbeck who explores the themes of oppression, greed, evil and their connections to his great wealth through the characterisation of the Doctor, an essential character in the book. John Steinbeck uses literary devices such as dialogue and setting to develop the Doctor’s appearance and personality that engages the reader. The Doctor is a symbol for the oppression of the people of La Paz and this is shown in ‘Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites for little Indians?
I am a doctor not a veterinary. ’ In this statement he shows how little interest he has in the poor and how insignificant to him they are. He refers to them as lowly animals and this shows how poorly he treats people less wealthy than him. Because of his great wealth which is brought about by the constant oppression of the Native Americans of La Paz he thinks of himself higher in social status. He is an arrogant, selfish person who has no regard for anyone else’s needs preferring to encourage ignorance, inequality and racism.
John Steinbeck uses the doctor as a symbol for the attitudes of white men to Native Americans. Greed is a major theme in the Pearl and is explored thoroughly through the Doctor. The Doctor’s appearance is symbolic for his greed and is shown in ‘His eyes rested in puffy little hammocks of flesh and his mouth drooped with discontent. He was growing very stout, and his voice was hoarse with fat that pressed against his throat’. This quote shows the Doctor is not satisfied with his current life even if his lifestyle is more fortunate than that of Kino and other people of La Paz.
His fat is symbolic for his need for more wealth and money which he gets this by refusing to treat people with no money as shown in ‘”Has he any money? The doctor demanded “No, they never have any money. I, I alone am supposed to work for nothing-and I am tired of it. See if he has any money! ”’ The doctor is the major antagonist in the Pearl and is the embodiment of evil. ‘The news came to the doctor where he sat with a woman whose illness was age, though neither she nor the doctor would admit it.
And when it was made plain that Kino was, the doctor grew stern and judicious at the same time. “He is a client of mine,” the doctor said. I am treating his child for a scorpion sting. ”’ The doctor says this after he finds out about Kino and the ‘Pearl of the World’. After refusing to treat Coyotito he accepts them as clients just because Kino now has great wealth. The doctor then poisons Coyotito just to find the location of the Pearl. This shows that he is evil because it shows he is selfish and how little he cares for anyone except himself.
Through his actions he is portrayed to have no conscience and though he is a healer he deliberately poisons a baby for his selfish wants. The doctor is ungrateful and unappreciative of his vast wealth and his comfortable lifestyle. ‘The doctor back in his house settled into his chair and looked at his watch. His people brought him a little supper of chocolate and sweet cakes and fruit, and he stared at the food discontentedly’. In this quote the doctor is shown to have a much more comfortable lifestyle than that of Kino’s.
He has servants to bring him food, chocolate, sweet cakes and fruit and yet he is still discontent with his life. John Steinbeck uses this to show a contrast between the wealth of white people and the wealth of the Native Americans. While the people of La Paz live in brush houses, have barely any money and are quite content with their lives while the white doctor lives in a rich, beautiful house as shown in ‘They could hear the splashing water and the singing of caged birds and the sweep of long brooms on flag stones’, has a huge amount of wealth and is still discontent with his life.
In the novella the Pearl John Steinbeck uses this character to explore the themes of the novella through the use of literacy devices and symbolism. He uses the doctor as a symbol to engage the reader and to help communicate his point. The doctor is portrayed as selfish, arrogant, greedy, oppressive, unappreciative and is the model for nearly all white men and their attitudes to the Native Americans in 1945. However has this attitude to other people changed since 60 years ago?