What's the moral of the story "The Use of Force"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One moral of the story is that when authorities are empowered to use force, they may go beyond rational limits and become sadistic.

In "The Use of Force," the reader senses that the doctor has had to force a tongue depressor into the mouth of perhaps one too many resistant children. Added to that, he has lost his patience with the parents, who are intimidated by the presence of the physician into not putting too much physical force upon the child and leaving this work to the doctor. In their good intentions, then, they sometimes become part of the problem. For instance, when the mother tells the girl that the doctor is not going to hurt her, the physician remarks,

At that I ground my teeth in disgust. If only they wouldn't use the word "hurt" I might be able to get somewhere.

That the doctor may derive some prurient pleasure from overpowering the pretty girl with "magnificent blonde hair in profusion" is suggested by his inappropriate remark that he has "fallen in love with the savage brat." The child's "insane fury" seems to excite him to battle with her. It is as though this encounter with the girl gives rise to an atavistic brute force in him, one all the more charged because the child is a "magnificent" girl. So, for all his professionalism in obtaining a look at her throat and taking a culture from it, there is an underlying male sadism in his acts, despite the fact that his "brute force" is given legitimacy because of his profession.

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