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Is power a major theme in The Use of Force?

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Par   •  4 Décembre 2017  •  Thèse  •  699 Mots (3 Pages)  •  1 292 Vues

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Power and dominance are two recurring concepts in every domain around the world. In the medical world, for example, there have been many instances of professionals using and abusing power. This can be seen in William Carlos Williams’ The Use of Force, where power and the abuse of power are central themes. The doctor in Williams’ work irrationally decides to use power to help his patient and enjoys doing so. This is shown through the point of view of the doctor, who enjoys his dominance over the little girl, as well as the symbolism of power found in the doctor’s medical instruments.

Williams uses the first-person point of view to show how the doctor craves and enjoys having power. Through his point of view, the reader understands that he feels he has to go through with using power on his patient because diphtheria is a fatal illness for children. At first, he hesitates because Mathilda’s mouth was already bleeding and he could come back later, when she would have calmed down, but he states that “[he has] seen at least two children lying dead in bed of neglect in such cases, and feeling that [he] must get a diagnosis now or never [he] went at it again” (Williams 71). The reader finds out through his point of view that he did it because he wants to attack her, and that “it was a pleasure to attack her” (Williams 71), which completely fails to justify his actions and therefore, makes it abuse of power. In his mind, he keeps going back and forth between wanting to help the little girl, to try and justify his actions, and enjoying hurting her. This shows that it surprises even himself because he feels guilty about using force, but his actions became completely irrational the moment he took pleasure in attacking her. There could even be sexual undertones to his actions. At the beginning of the story, the doctor already acknowledges that the little girl is “an unusually attractive little thing” (Williams 70). The whole incident could be seen as rape, with the doctor enjoying raping Mathilda. He describes the girl as having a flushed face and her breathing increasing speed (Williams 70), which has clear sexual connotations. Mathilda’s resistance can be seen as resistance towards sexual harassment. The fact that the doctor enjoys attacking her reveals how scandalous and malevolent his motives really are. Thus, the doctor’s point of view proves that he abuses of his power by enjoying using it in an irrational way.

Power is also shown through the symbolism of the tools the doctor uses for Mathilda’s diagnosis. The wooden tongue depressor, for instance, is commonly seen as an instrument of good and as a symbol of healing powers. The wooden spatula in this story, however, causes harm to the young child as it cuts her tongue, leaving her mouth bleeding (Williams 71) becoming a tool of destruction that is used to impose power on someone else. Another tool showing symbolism of power is the spoon he uses to pry open the girl’s mouth after she refuses to open it. A spoon is generally seen as a symbol of nourishment and replenishment, but becomes the doctor’s need for dominance when he uses it forcefully to open his patient’s mouth. The image of the spoon prying the mouth of a child open represents how far the doctor is willing to go to assert his dominance over the little girl. The symbolism of power that can be found from the spoon is a sign of abuse of power as he readily uses it knowing


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