Study Guide

Joseph Pritchard—Scorpio in The Luminaries

By Eleanor Catton

Joseph Pritchard—Scorpio

Joseph Pritchard is the local chemist in Hokitika, and he's associated with the sign of Scorpio. He is part of the group of twelve that meet at the Crown on the night the book opens. He buys his opium from Frank Carver, and a vial of his product is found under Crosbie Wells's bed (although Pritchard says he didn't sell it to him).

We first get a glimpse into who Pritchard really is and what he's about when the narrator is describing his relationship with Anna Wetherell. Although Harald Nilssen had assumed that Pritchard was in love with Anna, he was mistaken; Pritchard is far too vanilla in his tastes to be interested in her:

In fact Pritchard's taste in women was thoroughly orthodox, even juvenile. He would sooner be inclined to fall for a dairymaid than for a whore—however dull the maid, and however striking the whore. He valued purity and simplicity, plain dress, a soft voice, a tractable will, and a small ambition—which is to say, contrast. (I.5.5)

So, in other words, according to the narrator, he's looking for an "opposites attract" kind of deal in a mate, and "Anna Wetherell, with all her excess and intoxication, was too like him. He did not hate her for that exactly—but he pitied her" (I.5.5). Not exactly a love connection in the making, we guess.

Like Ah Sook, Pritchard is kind of a loner and "kept few friends—to whom he was fiercely loyal, as he was loyal to Anna, in his own way" (I.5.6). We hear that he was in love once, but the girl ended up marrying someone else.

So, he's not the most exciting of dudes, it seems, but a nice enough guy who tries to treat people well—and who, unlike a lot of the characters, seemed to have no murderous ambitions of which to speak.

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