Annalyzing the Theory of a Character Contest in "The Use of Force"

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Shirley Jackson
Dr. Brennan
English 1102
September 12, 2012
Essay I

Analyzing the theory of a character contest in “The Use of Force” Everyone would like to be known for having a good character. One should want to be a person who has integrity, great morals and some measurement of faith. When we’re put into different situations, sometimes, our character is tested. In William Carlos Williams, “The Use of Force,” the main characters in this short story is the doctor, the little girl and her parents. When we analyze this short story based on Erving Goffman’s theory of character contest, we see how the characters shift from remaining in control to almost on the edge of exploding uncontrollably.

The story tells of a little girl who has been sick for a few days and hasn’t found any deliverance from pain or a fever. The parents call in the doctor to make sure their daughter doesn’t have the life threatening disease diphtheria. At the start of the story, the character of the doctor is a professional man with a lot of “bed-side manners.” The parents are, of course, apprehensive about their child’s condition and what the diagnosis will conclude. Instantly, the doctor takes a fondness to the little girl. However, the little girl is depicted as being very uncooperative with the doctor and doesn’t want to open her mouth for the examination. I feel the main characters in this contest are the doctor and the little girl. When we analyze who wins or loses self-control, I believe the doctor and the patient start out in complete control of their actions, but as the story unfolds, I think the little girl loses control. As with most doctors, in the beginning of the examination, he is calm and friendly as he tries to coax the little girl to open her mouth by talking to her quietly and softly. The parents are on the sidelines also trying to persuade the child to open up and show them her throat. The doctor moves closer to the patient and tries again to get a...
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