A Doctor?s Touch
In William Carlos Williams?s ?The Use of Force? it is apparent that the physician took great gratification in defeating the tenacious child in her valiant attack towards him during an examination. During their physical discord another struggle manifested concerning who had control and power above the other. It could be stated that the doctor was doing his duty overpowering the girl for the sake of her health. However, he strangely and almost perversely enjoyed the dominance over the child. In the end, Mathilda was diagnosed with diphtheria, but it was she who possessed control of the situation in the beginning of the story. Just as there are never-ending struggles between man and woman, this story inconspicuously implies an allegory for rape.
As the doctor arrives he immediately notices the child?s beauty and penetrating stare. He senses the parents? distrust in him. Although he thinks they distrust him, it is his own inability to behave himself in a professional manner that he realizes he may not be able to contain. ?I could see they were all nervous, eyeing me up and down distrustfully.? The doctor smiles and calmly approaches in an effort to gain her confidence. He reassures Mathilda that he will not hurt her. As in many rape cases, women fall victims to courteous men whom they already know. They are coaxed into believing they are safe with seemingly nice men.
Mathilda?s mother tried to help by comforting her daughter and stating that the man was a nice doctor and not going to hurt her, but these comments enraged the doctor. He abhorred being referred to as a ?nice man? as the mother described him. The doctor foresaw then that he was no longer going to be a nice man. It was now or never and he was to have his way whether she willingly cooperated or not. When Mathilda refused to open her mouth, her mother was ordered to leave the room while the men had their way with her. The physician then ordered the father, a very large man, to restrain her on his lap while pinning her wrists down in an effort to suppress her as he made his advances. The doctor seemed frustrated at the girl?s stubbornness as he attempted to take a throat culture yet he was peculiarly enthralled by this. He frequently revealed his thoughts regarding the child?s beauty, ?A unusually attractive little thing?She had magnificent blonde hair?one of those picture children??
Another metaphor that Williams uses to parallel a rapist?s act was how the doctor took pleasure in inflicting pain as he forced the tongue depressor then a silver spoon ?down her throat until she gagged.? Despite the fact that ?the child?s mouth was already bleeding,? he was unwavering in his efforts to subdue her. ?Her tongue was cut and she was screaming in wild shrieks.? The brutal doctor often used the word ?kill? implying a violent tendency and thoughts. ?It was a pleasure to attack her. My face was burning with it.? Relentlessly the battle continued and the doctor was determined to achieve his goal. The doctor mentioned that he had ?fallen in love with the savage brat.? His vocabulary and mannerisms were of a perverse-minded individual taking advantage of the reality that his patient was a young girl from a poor, ignorant family. No person would dare question a doctor?s judgement over a dust-bowl family.
The physician loved to be hated and the psychological ?turn-on? that he was experiencing during the confrontation parallels the fulfillment a rapist searches out when taunting his victim as they attempt to escape his wrath. She yells and ?clawed instinctively for my eyes?she surely rose to magnificent heights of insane fury of effort bred of her terror of me.? Initially, Mathilda was on the defensive, fearing the doctor?s advances, but by the end of the story her fear turned to fury against the doctor?s forcefulness and she attacked him.
A power struggle was clearly evident in Williams?s ?The Use of Force,? one can only assume why a child would react in such a rebellious manner. Her state of mind may have been altered due to her high fever or she could have possibly known of the other children dying of diphtheria and feared the worst. I doubt any other experience with a doctor could have prognosticated the traumatic event. The family was not well educated and they allowed the sadistic doctor to patronize them. They permitted him to take extreme measures in order to obtain an oral exam. He assaulted the child and forced her to do something she was obviously very uncomfortable with, thus causing a bloody scene when the wooden tongue depressor cut her mouth. She may not have been familiar with a doctor poking and prying. The doctor?s violent nature was inexcusable. Nevertheless he believed his feelings of going beyond reason were rational, in order to protect her from her own idiocy. He described his actions as a ?social necessity? and perversely enjoyed the ?muscular release? of built up tension and stress due to the child?s unwillingness to cooperate like a rapist enjoys another kind of muscular release. He rationalized his actions by claiming to save the child?s life however he could have prevented her attack on him if he would have left and returned another time. Mathilda may have calmed down but he chose not to stop the examination because of the sadistic pleasure he took from it all. The physician won and Mathilda was defeated as many women are in today?s violent and brutal world.
Comp.I college freshman
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