In the the Use of Force, is it justified or unjustified for the doctor to use violence on the girl Mathilda? Why or Why not (3 reasons for each side)

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This story is a classic case of the age-old question, "is the end justified by the means?" The "ends" in this story is trying to determine if the little girl has diphtheria, which is deadly at the time of the story and which we find out at the end, the girl does indeed have. So, one would think that whatever means necessary to save the girl's life would be justified, right?

  1. Force is justifiable because the doctor needs to find out if the girl has a deadly disease.
  2. Force is justified because the little girl will not let the doctor examine her, so how can he find out if she has a deadly disease?
  3. Force is justified because the little girl does not realize the severity of the disease she might have, and the doctor is older, wiser, and a trained professional, so of course he should use whatever means necessary to save the child from herself.

That said, this story can be interpreted on a higher level as a metaphor for EVER using force. Is it justified to use force to protect oneself? So, is it okay, then, to carry a concealed weapon? Is it okay to protect one's country and therefore declare war when one's country is threatened? Is it okay to drop an atomic bomb on a country to prevent thousands and thousands of deaths because that country refuses to surrender?

These are all hypothetical questions, but I think also part of why this short story was written.