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By using the scenario of a doctor treating a patient who really does not want to be treated, the author examines the ethical use of force that can be argued is necessary at times. However it also looks at the impact of that force not only on the person that it is used against, but also on the persno using it. This is shown primarily through the character of the doctor. Thanks to the first person perspective that Williams chooses to use, we are able to see his gradual transformation from a character who is professional and rational to a character who takes immense pleasure in the way that he is able to force his patient to physically yield to him.
Even though the doctor seems to remain focused on his goal of examining the child's throat, he himself admits that achieving this objective is not actually about acting in the child's best interests any more as the following quote reveals:
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. My face was burning with it.
Even though he sees he has a social responsibility to diagnose what is wrong with the child, he also is honest enough to admit that this actually does not have much at all to do with the force that he exerts to open her mouth:
A blind fury, a feeling of adult shame, bred of a longing for muscular release are the operatives. One goes on to the end.
The title therefore indicates the theme of this short story and raises massive ethical questions about how using force on somebody else impacts that person and can transform them from a rational professional to a much more disturbing character.
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