The Use of Force

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In 1938, William Carlos Williams wrote a short story called The Use of Force. The doctor is summoned to a family’s home to check on the welfare of a child, Mathilda, who has been sick for a few days. The family does not trust the doctor, as they are watching him closely, and have never called one before. The family is immensely worried about Mathilda’s health. There has been a deathly disease in the community making everyone in the room is tense if fear of her having it. The reader can feel the tension in the statement, “…diphtheria in the school to which the child went during that month and we were all, quite apparently, thinking of that, though no one had as yet spoken of the thing.” They all know diphtheria is possible, but do not want to speak about it. Although finding out the health of the girl is essential, the doctor does not act appropriately. He seems to have no concept of boundaries, or professionalism. Both the doctor, and the girl act violently in their consultation. But the girl is much, much younger and is not there for business. The doctor goes beyond his welcome by commenting on the girl’s attractiveness, and forcing the parents to harm Mathilda. The doctor gained pleasure through hurting the girl, which completely crossed the line. While the results of this visit were necessary, the doctor did not fulfill his duty in a humane way.

The doctor has come into the girl’s territory, and should have shown the family more respect. The first shocking remark is when he first saw the girl and he said, “…an unusually attractive little thing, and as strong as a heifer in appearance.” This is not a remark a sane grown man would make about a child. He should not be saying he is attracted to her, if he said she was cute that would make sense, but by saying attracted he implies a love interest. The doctor makes comments on how he is doing things in his best professional manner, but why would he even make a remark like that unless he knew he was not being...
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