What are the examples of symbolism in "The Use of Force?"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

William’s story takes a mundane interaction—a doctor trying to look at a girl’s tonsils—and turns it into a very dark story of domination. So in a sense, the entire story can be seen as symbolic of a kind of rape. The tongue depressor, which the child bites in two, and the spoon with which the doctor finally pries open her mouth, are pretty obviously phallic symbols, in that that are objects used by the doctor to penetrate her body and discover the “secret” of her tonsils. As the narrator puts it, “It was a pleasure to attack her.” His will to dominate her gets the better of him, and for the girl, it is all the more humiliating because her own father participates in the attack. In fact, after the doctor discovers that her tonsils are indeed infected, he says, with a certain exaltation, “She had fought valiantly to keep me from knowing her secret.”

I don’t think we need to think about these things symbolically, however, to get Williams’ point, which is that young...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 569 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team