In the final analysis, how and why did the parents, the child, and the doctor use force in "Use Of Force"?

Expert Answers

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In Williams' story "The Use of Force," a worried family pays for a doctor to make a house call to examine their young daughter. They are a poor rural family, for whom even the doctor's modest fee is a major financial strain. It is obvious that they genuinely care for their daughter and are worried about her. The doctor is also portrayed as an essentially decent man, sympathetic to his patients and their families. The child is scared, ill, and hysterical. 

In the narrative, the child does not want her throat to be examined, and physically struggles to prevent it, and thus uses force. Similarly, the doctor, with the aid of the parents, holds the girl down and forces her mouth open so that he can examine her throat to see if she has diphtheria. This is necessary because diphtheria can badly harm or even kill children if not treated promptly. 

The most important element of the story is the doctor's reflections and emotions. He is not just uncomfortable with the need to use force, but even more uncomfortable with the way in which he and the parents become increasingly frustrated and angry. While intellectually, they know that they are doing this for the child's own good, using force starts a cycle of irrational anger, a visceral feeling for which the doctor eventually feels shame when it recedes.

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