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Though Steinbeck protested that the story "The Snake," the recasting of a true story that happened to his friend Ed Ricketts, didn't have a deeper meaning--or if it did, he didn't know what it was, critics like to analyze the story from either a Freudian or a Jungian perspective. In both of these perspectives, control is a central concept: power manipulation of events in order to be in control of the outcome or of the affect on the individual(s) who is present.
The woman accosts Dr. Phillips while he is at work in his laboratory and, even though he sends her away, she controls the meeting so that not only is she invited in, she stays there while he conducts the first part of his time-sensitive experiments; she coerces him to part with one of his male rattlesnakes; she coerces him into feeding it a live rat while she watches in some sort of a transcendent ecstasy; she coerces him into keeping the snake and continuing to violate his conscience by regularly feeding it rats.
I use the word coerce because since he was persuaded against his will to let her in; since he keeps snakes only for valid scientific experiment; and since he rejects killing creatures for anything but the valid advancement of scientific knowledge, his acquiescence to her presence and requests amounts to some form of psychological or emotional coercion (coercion: using power or control to gain compliance).
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