The Use of Force

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"The Use of Force"
AuthorWilliam Carlos Williams
CountryUnited States
Genreshort story
Publication date

"The Use of Force" is a short story by the American author William Carlos Williams.[1] It was first published in his short story collection Life Along the Passaic River (1938); it is also available in The Doctor Stories (1984), a collection of Williams' fiction that is still in print.[2]


The story is narrated in the first person by a physician, who is making a house call to tend to a sick girl. Fearing she may have diphtheria, the doctor decides to check her throat. However, the girl refuses to open her mouth, and the doctor uses force to restrain her and examine her throat with a spoon, which angers the girl. The doctor finds that, against her own self-interest, the girl has hidden the symptoms of diphtheria from her parents and the doctor.[citation needed]


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 both his admiration for the child and disgust with the parents,[3] and his guilty enjoyment of forcefully subduing the stubborn child in an attempt to acquire the throat sample.[4] The overall theme of the story revolves around power and submission, and the doctor's unnerved feeling during the forceful encounter.


  1. ^ Williams, William Carlos. "The Use of Force". Goodreads.
  2. ^ "The Use of Force". Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  3. ^ "After all, I had already fallen in love with the savage brat, the parents were contemptible to me."
  4. ^ "But the worst of it was that I too had got beyond reason. I could have torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to attack her."