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Last Updated on February 25, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523

She did not move and seemed, inwardly, quiet; an unusually attractive little thing, and as strong as a heifer in appearance. But her face was flushed, she was breathing rapidly, and I realized that she had a high fever. She had magnificent blonde hair, in profusion.

As the doctor describes Mathilda, he makes particular note of both her attractiveness and her apparent “strength.” The symptoms of her illness are sandwiched between appreciative remarks regarding her physical appearance, and even the descriptions of her symptoms—“flushed” and “breathing rapidly”—are suggestive of physical exertion. The doctor seems uncomfortably aware of Mathilda’s physicality, and the figuring of the eventual victim of the doctor’s use of force as a beautiful young girl adds a sexual undertone to the story.

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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.

Over the course of their “struggle,” the doctor imagines himself as having fallen in love with Mathilda, and he seems to exult in her “terror” of him. The “magnificence” of her fury excites him, and he considers her a worthy opponent whom he must dominate. Mathilda’s obvious terror and the doctor’s sadistic enjoyment of the act reinforce the implications of the exam as a sort of rape.

The damned little brat must be protected against her own idiocy, one says to one’s self at such times. Others must be protected against her. It is a social necessity. And all these things are true. But a blind fury, a feeling of adult shame, bred of a longing for muscular release are the operatives.

The doctor, in a bid to recover his own sense of rationality, claims that his forcing of the exam is for Mathilda’s own protection. However, he seems to be attempting to justify this...

(The entire section contains 523 words.)

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