In "The Use of Force," what is the conflict of the story?

In “The Use of Force,” the main conflict of the story is between the doctor and Mathilda Olson. The doctor wants to examine Mathilda to see if she has diphtheria, but Mathilda refuses to let him examine her.

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The central conflict in “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams is between the doctor and his stubborn patient Mathilda Olson. The two become involved in a battle of wills which culminates in the doctor forcing open the young girl's throat to examine her for signs of diphtheria.

Though an unpleasant outcome to what should've been a straightforward procedure, there's a sense of inevitability about it. Earlier on in the story, Mathilda has physically attacked the doctor, lashing out at him and knocking off his glasses.

Even so, the doctor appears to relish the challenge of getting Mathilda to submit to his will. On a professional level, it's essential that the doctor wins out in this particular contest. It would be embarrassing, to say the least, for a respectable medical practitioner to be defeated by a willful child. And on a personal level too, it's essential that the doctor should prevail in this battle of wills. His pride is also at stake in this encounter.

At the same time,...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 876 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 14, 2021