The Use of Force

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The Use of Force
Author William Carlos Williams
Country United States
Language English
Genre short story
Publication date
1938

"The Use of Force" is a short story by the American author William Carlos Williams first published 1938.

The story is narrated in first person by a doctor, who is answering a house visit to see a sick girl. Fearing that she may have diphtheria, the doctor decides to check her throat. However, she refuses to open her mouth and the doctor uses force to restrain her and examine her throat with a spoon, which makes the girl very mad. The doctor finds that, against her own self-interest, the girl has hidden the symptoms of diphtheria from her parents and the doctor.

The story is written without the use of quotation marks, and the dialogue is not distinguished from the narrator's comments. The story is rendered from the subjective point of view of the doctor, and explores his subdued enjoyment of forcefully subduing the stubborn child in an attempt to acquire the throat sample. The overall theme of the story revolves around power and submission and the doctor's unnerved feeling following the forceful encounter.