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Home » The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams: A Critical Literary Analysis

The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams: A Critical Literary Analysis

William Carlos Williams’ short story “The Use of Force” is a powerful and thought-provoking work that explores the complex themes of power, control, and violence. In this critical literary analysis, we will examine the various literary techniques used by Williams to convey his message, including symbolism, imagery, and character development. Through a close reading of the text, we will explore the deeper meaning behind the story and its relevance to contemporary society.

The Themes of “The Use of Force”

One of the most prominent themes in “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams is the power dynamic between the doctor and the young girl. The doctor, who is supposed to be a figure of authority and care, becomes increasingly aggressive and violent as the story progresses. This power dynamic is further complicated by the fact that the girl is a patient who is in need of medical attention. The story raises important questions about the ethics of using force in medical situations and the responsibility of those in positions of power to use that power responsibly. Another theme that emerges in the story is the idea of communication and the limitations of language. The doctor struggles to communicate with the girl, who is uncooperative and resistant to his attempts to examine her. This inability to communicate effectively leads to a breakdown in the doctor-patient relationship and ultimately results in the use of force. The story highlights the importance of effective communication in all aspects of life, particularly in situations where power dynamics are at play.

The Characters in “The Use of Force”

The characters in “The Use of Force” are few but significant. The story revolves around a doctor and a young girl named Mathilda. The doctor is the protagonist, and Mathilda is the patient. The doctor is a professional, and he takes his job seriously. He is determined to diagnose Mathilda’s illness and provide her with the necessary treatment. Mathilda, on the other hand, is a stubborn and uncooperative patient. She refuses to open her mouth, making it difficult for the doctor to examine her throat. The doctor’s frustration with Mathilda’s behavior is evident throughout the story. He becomes increasingly aggressive and forceful in his attempts to examine her. The doctor’s actions are driven by his desire to help Mathilda, but his methods are questionable. Mathilda’s behavior, on the other hand, is driven by fear and mistrust. She is afraid of the doctor and does not want him to touch her. The characters in “The Use of Force” are complex and multi-dimensional. They represent the conflicting emotions and motivations that can arise in a medical setting.

The Setting of “The Use of Force”

The setting of “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams is a small, cluttered room in a lower-middle-class home. The story takes place in the early 20th century, and the room is described as having a “dingy yellow” wallpaper and a “shabby” appearance. The room is also filled with various objects, including a bed, a table, and a chair. The setting is important to the story because it creates a sense of claustrophobia and tension, which mirrors the conflict between the doctor and the young girl. The small space also emphasizes the physical struggle between the two characters, as they are forced to confront each other in close quarters. Overall, the setting of “The Use of Force” plays a crucial role in the story’s themes of power, control, and violence.

The Plot of “The Use of Force”

The plot of “The Use of Force” revolves around a doctor’s struggle to diagnose and treat a young girl who is suffering from a severe case of diphtheria. The doctor, who is called to the girl’s home by her parents, finds himself in a battle of wills with the girl, who refuses to open her mouth and allow him to examine her throat. As the doctor becomes increasingly frustrated and aggressive in his attempts to force the girl to comply, the situation escalates into a violent confrontation. The story raises important questions about the ethics of using force in medical treatment, as well as the power dynamics between doctors and patients.

The Conflict in “The Use of Force”

The conflict in “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams is a complex one that revolves around the struggle between the doctor and the young girl. The doctor is determined to examine the girl’s throat, but she refuses to open her mouth. This leads to a physical altercation between the two, with the doctor using force to pry open the girl’s mouth. The conflict is further complicated by the fact that the doctor is both the protagonist and the antagonist of the story. On one hand, he is trying to help the girl by diagnosing her illness, but on the other hand, he is using violence to do so. This creates a moral dilemma for the reader, who must decide whether the doctor’s actions are justified or not. Ultimately, the conflict in “The Use of Force” highlights the tension between the desire to help others and the use of force to achieve that goal.

The Symbolism in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force,” William Carlos Williams employs various symbols to convey the underlying themes of the story. One of the most prominent symbols is the girl’s mouth, which represents her power and agency. Throughout the story, the girl refuses to open her mouth, resisting the doctor’s attempts to examine her throat. This symbolizes her resistance to the doctor’s authority and her desire to maintain control over her own body. Additionally, the doctor’s use of force to pry open the girl’s mouth represents the violence and aggression that can arise when power dynamics are imbalanced. Overall, the symbolism in “The Use of Force” adds depth and complexity to the story, highlighting the complex power dynamics at play between the doctor and the girl.

The Irony in “The Use of Force”

The irony in “The Use of Force” lies in the fact that the doctor, who is supposed to be a healer, becomes the aggressor in the story. He is supposed to be the one who helps the sick child, but instead, he inflicts pain on her in order to diagnose her illness. This irony is further emphasized by the fact that the doctor is a professional, someone who is supposed to be in control of his emotions and actions. However, in this story, he loses control and becomes violent towards the child. The irony is also present in the fact that the doctor’s actions are justified by his desire to help the child, but in reality, his actions only cause her more harm. This highlights the theme of the story, which is the abuse of power and the consequences that come with it. The doctor’s actions may have been well-intentioned, but they ultimately lead to a loss of trust and respect from the child’s parents. The irony in “The Use of Force” serves as a warning against the dangers of abusing power and the importance of maintaining control in difficult situations.

The Point of View in “The Use of Force”

The point of view in “The Use of Force” is crucial to understanding the story’s themes and message. The story is told from the perspective of the doctor, who is also the protagonist. This first-person point of view allows readers to experience the doctor’s thoughts and emotions as he struggles with his own moral compass and the ethical implications of his actions. The doctor’s perspective also highlights the power dynamic between him and the young girl, as he holds the authority and control in the situation. This point of view ultimately raises questions about the use of force in situations where one person holds power over another, and the consequences that come with such actions.

The Tone in “The Use of Force”

The tone in “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams is one of tension and unease. From the very beginning, the reader is introduced to a situation that is uncomfortable and unsettling. The narrator, a doctor, is called to examine a young girl who is sick with a fever. However, the girl refuses to open her mouth and allow the doctor to examine her throat. This sets the tone for the rest of the story, as the doctor becomes increasingly frustrated and aggressive in his attempts to examine the girl. The tone is one of desperation and urgency, as the doctor feels that he must examine the girl in order to diagnose her illness and provide treatment. However, his actions become more and more violent, and the tone becomes increasingly disturbing as the story progresses. Ultimately, the tone in “The Use of Force” is one of discomfort and unease, as the reader is forced to confront the violent actions of the doctor and the disturbing nature of the situation.

The Imagery in “The Use of Force”

The imagery in “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams is vivid and powerful, adding depth and complexity to the story. From the opening lines, the reader is transported into the scene, with descriptions of the house, the child, and the doctor’s thoughts and emotions. The use of sensory details, such as the smell of the child’s breath and the taste of blood in the doctor’s mouth, creates a visceral experience for the reader. The imagery also serves to highlight the themes of power and control, as the doctor struggles to assert his authority over the child. Overall, the imagery in “The Use of Force” is a crucial element in the story’s impact and effectiveness.

The Language in “The Use of Force”

The language used in “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams is simple and straightforward, yet it effectively conveys the intensity of the situation. The story is told from the perspective of the doctor, who is trying to examine a young girl with a suspected case of diphtheria. However, the girl refuses to open her mouth, and the doctor is forced to use force to examine her.

The language used in the story is primarily descriptive, with Williams using vivid imagery to paint a picture of the scene. For example, when the doctor first sees the girl, he describes her as having “bright, alert eyes” and “a pretty mouth”. This description helps to establish the girl as a sympathetic character, which makes the violence that follows all the more shocking.

As the story progresses, the language becomes more intense and urgent, reflecting the doctor’s growing frustration and desperation. Williams uses short, choppy sentences to convey the doctor’s sense of urgency, such as when he says, “I had to have a throat culture. I had to get it by force.” This language helps to create a sense of tension and unease, which builds throughout the story.

Overall, the language used in “The Use of Force” is simple yet effective, conveying the intensity of the situation and the emotions of the characters involved. Williams’ use of descriptive language and short, urgent sentences helps to create a sense of tension and unease, making the story a powerful and memorable read.

The Use of Foreshadowing in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams, foreshadowing is used to create tension and anticipation in the reader. From the very beginning of the story, the narrator hints at the violent encounter that is to come. The opening sentence, “They were new patients to me, all I had was the name, Olson,” sets the stage for a potentially dangerous situation. The fact that the narrator knows nothing about the patients except their name suggests that they are strangers, and therefore unpredictable.

As the story progresses, the foreshadowing becomes more explicit. When the little girl, Mathilda, refuses to open her mouth for the doctor, the narrator notes that “there was something deeper than the ordinary stubbornness of a child about her.” This statement hints at the fact that Mathilda may be hiding something, or that she may be more difficult to handle than the narrator initially thought.

The climax of the story is foreshadowed in several ways. When the narrator tries to force Mathilda’s mouth open, he notes that “her eyes were murderous and her face was distorted with passion.” This description suggests that Mathilda is capable of violence, and that the situation may escalate quickly. Additionally, the fact that the narrator has to physically restrain Mathilda in order to examine her throat foreshadows the violent struggle that is to come.

Overall, the use of foreshadowing in “The Use of Force” adds depth and complexity to the story. By hinting at the violent encounter to come, Williams creates a sense of unease in the reader and makes the eventual confrontation all the more impactful.

The Use of Flashback in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force,” William Carlos Williams employs the literary technique of flashback to provide insight into the character of the doctor. The story is told from the perspective of the doctor, who is called to examine a young girl with a suspected case of diphtheria. As the doctor attempts to examine the girl, she resists and the doctor becomes increasingly frustrated.

It is through the use of flashback that we learn about the doctor’s past experiences with similar cases. He recalls a time when he was unable to save a young boy from the same disease, and this memory fuels his determination to examine the girl by any means necessary. The flashback also reveals the doctor’s sense of duty and responsibility towards his patients, which ultimately drives his actions in the present.

By using flashback, Williams adds depth and complexity to the character of the doctor, allowing readers to understand his motivations and actions in a more nuanced way. The technique also serves to highlight the theme of the story, which explores the tension between the desire to help others and the limits of one’s power to do so.

The Use of Allegory in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force,” William Carlos Williams employs the use of allegory to convey a deeper meaning beyond the surface level of the story. The story follows a doctor’s struggle to diagnose and treat a young girl who is resisting his efforts. However, the story can also be interpreted as a commentary on the power dynamics between men and women, particularly in the medical field. The doctor’s use of force to gain control over the girl’s body can be seen as a metaphor for the ways in which men exert their dominance over women’s bodies in society. Additionally, the girl’s resistance can be interpreted as a symbol of women’s agency and their ability to resist patriarchal control. Through the use of allegory, Williams creates a multi-layered narrative that invites readers to consider the story’s implications beyond its immediate plot.

The Use of Metaphor in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams, the use of metaphor is prevalent throughout the story. The metaphorical language used by the narrator helps to convey the intense emotions and actions of the characters. For example, the narrator describes the child’s throat as a “little funnel” and the doctor’s hand as a “steel trap.” These metaphors create vivid images in the reader’s mind and add depth to the story. Additionally, the use of metaphor helps to highlight the power dynamic between the doctor and the child. The doctor’s hand is described as a “steel trap,” emphasizing his control over the situation and the child’s vulnerability. Overall, the use of metaphor in “The Use of Force” adds to the complexity and richness of the story, making it a powerful piece of literature.

The Use of Simile in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force,” William Carlos Williams employs simile to vividly describe the physical struggle between the doctor and the young girl. One example of this can be seen when the doctor compares the girl’s resistance to that of a “wildcat.” This comparison not only emphasizes the girl’s strength and determination, but also highlights the doctor’s own struggle to control her. Another instance of simile occurs when the doctor describes the girl’s throat as “a little funnel.” This comparison not only creates a vivid image in the reader’s mind, but also emphasizes the doctor’s violent actions as he tries to force open her mouth. Overall, Williams’ use of simile adds depth and intensity to the physical conflict at the heart of the story.

The Use of Personification in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force,” William Carlos Williams employs personification to create a sense of tension and unease throughout the story. The personification of the child’s throat as a “little volcano” and the doctor’s hands as “ferocious” and “merciless” adds a layer of intensity to the already disturbing scene. By giving human qualities to inanimate objects, Williams heightens the emotional impact of the story and emphasizes the violent nature of the doctor’s actions. The use of personification also serves to blur the line between the doctor and the child, as both are portrayed as powerful and dangerous entities. Overall, Williams’ use of personification contributes to the unsettling and thought-provoking nature of “The Use of Force.”

The Use of Hyperbole in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force,” William Carlos Williams employs hyperbole to emphasize the intensity of the conflict between the doctor and the young girl. The hyperbolic language used by the doctor, such as “I could have torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it,” highlights the extreme emotions and actions that are taking place. This use of hyperbole not only adds to the tension of the story but also serves to illustrate the power dynamic between the doctor and the patient. The doctor’s exaggerated language suggests a sense of superiority and control over the situation, while the girl’s resistance and refusal to open her mouth demonstrate her own agency and autonomy. Overall, Williams’ use of hyperbole in “The Use of Force” contributes to the story’s exploration of power, control, and the limits of authority in the medical profession.

The Use of Allusion in “The Use of Force”

In “The Use of Force,” William Carlos Williams employs the use of allusion to enhance the depth and meaning of the story. Allusion is a literary device that refers to a well-known person, place, event, or literary work. By using allusion, Williams is able to create a deeper connection between the reader and the story. One example of allusion in “The Use of Force” is the reference to the Greek myth of Apollo and Daphne. The doctor compares the girl’s resistance to that of Daphne, who was pursued by Apollo and turned into a tree to escape him. This allusion adds a layer of complexity to the story, as it suggests that the doctor sees himself as a powerful figure pursuing the girl, and that the girl is using her own strength and wit to resist him. Overall, the use of allusion in “The Use of Force” adds depth and complexity to the story, and allows the reader to engage with the text on a deeper level.