The Girl with a Pimply Face

Williams, William Carlos

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction
Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jul-05-2001
  • Last revised: Aug-22-2006


A physician is called to visit a sick baby in an apartment in the poorer part of town. When he arrives, the baby is being cared for by a "lank haired girl of about fifteen," the child’s sister. The parents are out. The doctor is intrigued by the young girl’s forthrightness, the "complete lack of the rotten smell of a liar." He notices that she has a rash on her legs. She asks for some medicine to help her acne.

The doctor returns later when the mother is home. She speaks little English. Evidently the child had been in the hospital, but they had brought her home because she was getting worse with hospital-acquired diarrhea. The doctor examines the baby, discovering that she has a congenital heart defect, which is probably responsible for her failure to thrive. The doctor gives advice about feeding and prescribes some cream for the fifteen year old’s acne.

Later, the doctor’s wife and his colleagues comment on the baby’s family: they’re no good, they’re crooks, he’ll never get paid. In the end he does go back to the apartment. The baby looks a little better and the girl’s face is a little clearer.


For those reading Williams in a literature and medicine context, Hugh Crawford’s book, Modernism, Medicine, & William Carlos Williams (annotated in this database), may be of interest.


First published: 1938

Primary Source

The Farmers' Daughters: The Collected Stories of William Carlos Williams


New Directions

Place Published

Norfolk, Conn.



Secondary Source

The Doctor Stories