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

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Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The conflict in this short story is between a doctor and his patient, a young girl. The doctor needs to get a look at the girl's throat in order to work out what is wrong with her. Her parents have called him in to help their daughter, and in order to do this, he needs to look at her throat to confirm whether she has contracted the diphtheria that has been doing the rounds.

The girl, wishing to keep her diphtheria a secret, flatly refuses to allow the doctor to get a look at her throat. She attacks him, pushing his glasses off his face, and splinters the wooden stick that he eventually gets into her mouth.

With the help of a flat metal spoon, the doctor eventually gets a look at her throat and confirms his diagnosis of diphtheria.

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In "The Use of Force " by Williams Carlos Williams, many conflicts are evident as the doctor arrives to examine the child. From the onset, the parents don't trust the doctor. The doctor believes the child may have diphtheria since it has been spreading at the girl's school, and he needs to look at the child's throat and get a culture. A conflict occurs when the doctor feels revulsion towards the parents. The parents tell...

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