In "The Use of Force" what do the moments of the doctor's violence say about him? 

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The doctor’s violence says that he is a predator.

Although the doctor claims that he is mostly just concerned that the little girl is ill and going to spread an epidemic, he is getting way too much pleasure out of forcing himself upon her.  The fact that he does so shows that he is a predator and a violent man.  Everything about this incident is wrong, from the parents’ reactions to him to the little girl’s suspicions of him. Clearly something else is going on here than a doctor examining a patient.

The doctor is very violent with the girl, in a way that surprises even him.  It is likely that other little girls have made complaints against him, or should have, or will in the future.  If he has not assaulted a girl or woman yet, he will.  He does everything but rape the girl, and what he does to her is symbolic rape.  It is definitely assault and far more than a medical examination.

What should be just a doctor looking at a little girl’s throat becomes a description of a battle of wills filled with violent language.  The story is told from the doctor’s perspective, and he is surprisingly honest and astute in describing how much the girl hates him.  The entire exam becomes about his desire to dominate her.

Oh yeah? I had to smile to myself. After all, I had already fallen in love with the savage brat, the parents were contemptible to me. In the ensuing struggle they grew more and more abject, crushed, exhausted while she surely rose to magnificent heights of insane fury of effort bred of her terror of me.

Her parents become secondary figures, but they allow him to violate their daughter.  They feel as horrible about doing it as if they were watching him actually rape her.  In the beginning of the story they are very uncomfortable about bringing her to him.  They do it because they have no choice, since they fear she will die if they don’t.  He is a horrible man, but he is their only hope.  They yell at their daughter and ask her if she isn’t ashamed to behave as she is in front of the doctor, but she is not giving in easily.  She has taken the measure of the man.

Now truly she was furious. She had been on the defensive before but now she attacked. Tried to get off her father's lap and fly at me while tears of defeat blinded her eyes.

Does the doctor really care about his patient?  He shows absolutely no sympathy for her throughout the incident, or for her parents.  He does seem to show some concern for the diphtheria outbreak in general.  It could be that he is stressed by the illness and death he has seen, and it has brought out the darker side of his nature. 

Sometimes a stressful incident can trigger innate behavior.  Perhaps the doctor did not even realize he was a violent person.  However, the profession of doctor is a position of power.  He went into the field in the first place because it gave him authority.  He always had the capacity to abuse it.  This might have been the first time he did, but it will definitely not be the last.

This is a clever story, in which point of view is everything.  What first seems to be just a doctor examining a patient is so much more when you look below the surface.  It also brings up an interesting issue.  How much trust do we place in our doctors?  When do we stop giving them the benefit of the doubt?  There is a fine line, and sometimes even they may not know when they have crossed it.

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