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Short Story Review "The Use of Force"

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bbelser
Words 1224
Pages 5
Bailey Belser
Professor Ippolito
English 112-11F
February 3, 2014
In the Eyes of the Other Person Authors will often choose to use elements to help give the audience a better understanding of the message in their story. Elements are what make up the story in its entirety and help the reader create an image in their mind. A great example of a short story that includes such elements is William Carlos Williams’ “The Use of Force.” In this story, elements such as theme, background, symbolism, and image are utilized in a way to communicate the idea that there are two sides to every situation.
In this short story, there appears to be an overall theme. William Carlos Williams seems to want to make the audience understand that there are usually two sides to every situation—in this case, for a little girl, a doctor’s visit is frightening and for a doctor, it is just another job. Williams demonstrated just how scared the little girl was throughout the story in many ways. In one instance, the mother reassured the little girl to not be afraid and that the doctor would not hurt her (Williams 80). In another instance, Williams writes, “As I moved my chair a little nearer suddenly with one catlike movement both her hands clawed instinctively for my eyes and she almost reached them too” (81). Williams uses the girl’s actions to further convey his message that she was frightened. It is easy to assume that a grown man having to deal with this would get frustrated. Williams chose to demonstrate the doctor’s irritation through his narration. “Look here, I said to the child, we’re going to look at your throat. You’re old enough to understand what I am saying. Will you open it now by yourself or shall we gave to open it for you” (Williams 81). William Carlos Williams used techniques such as the voice of a minor character, the narration and even the actions of the main characters in his story to convince his audience that any situation can warrant different kinds of responses based on experience.
For audiences today, it might be hard to think about a doctor getting this frustrated with a child and showing his frustration. When looking at the background of this story, although it is not directly stated, it can be assumed that the story did not take place in modern times. In the opening of the story, Williams writes that the doctor has arrived at the sick little girl’s home (80). This supports that the story takes place in a previous time given that house calls are a rarity today. In addition, the parents paid the amount of three dollars for the doctor’s assistance, which further communicates that this story is not set in today’s time (Williams 80). Williams’ subtle communication of the time allowed the audience to understand that it was a time when people would have thought three dollars was expensive, and how big of a deal it must have been to have a doctor come out to take care of an illness. He writes, “As often, in such cases, they weren’t telling me more than they had to, it was up to me to tell them; that’s why they were spending three dollars on me” (80). It is easy to understand that including such broad statements indirectly shows the time period that this story takes place in.
Williams uses a lot of symbolism to show that the little girl in the story was frightened and even defiant. He writes, “The child was fairly eating me up with her cold, steady eyes, and no expression to her face whatever (Williams 80). Obviously the girl’s eyes were not literally cold to the touch, but the phrasing symbolizes that she was very unhappy and that her eyes revealed her true feelings about the doctor. Another use of symbolism employed by Williams was the medical supplies. “Then I grasped the child’s head with my left hand and tried to get the wooden tongue depressor between her teeth…When finally I got the wooden spatula behind the last teeth…” (Williams 81). The references to the medical tools are symbolizing that the doctor was inspecting the girl’s throat to see what was causing her sickness and that he was having a difficult time doing his job due to her fighting back. Williams chose symbolism with the girl’s expressions and the doctors medical equipment to further stress just how scared the little girl was in this situation.
William Carlos Williams used a lot of images to share with the audience the different viewpoints of the two main characters. He writes, “As I moved my chair a little nearer suddenly with one catlike movement both her hands clawed instinctively for my eyes and she almost reached them too” (81). Here, Williams uses imagery to convey that the girl is reacting quickly, referring to her actions as “catlike” and having “clawed” hands. Typically, cats bring out their claws when frightened, so describing the girl as “catlike” supports the idea that the little girl was afraid in this particular situation. Williams also uses imagery with the medical supplies. He writes that, “She opened up for an instant and before I could see anything she came down again, and gripped the wooden blade between her molars. She reduced it to splinters before I could get it out again” (82). The blade was probably not reduced completely to splinters, but the sentence allows the reader to form a picture in their head of just how hard the girl was biting down and how defiant she was being throughout the doctor’s visit. The author also attempts to show the doctor’s point of view in this situation by calling the girl a savage brat. Williams writes, “After all, I had already fallen in love with the savage brat” (81). Calling someone savage implies that they are uncivilized, so by choosing to use this language, Williams is attempting to show the audience that the doctor sees the little girl as wild. The quote also shows that although the little girl was a brat, the doctor also knew she was sick and wanted to help her, even if that meant being harsh with her. The quote also seemed to have the purpose of letting the audience know that the doctor could take the point of view of the little girl.
The overall theme of “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams was that there are always two sides to a situation and that experience can change how a person views that situation. To share his message Williams first described the background of the story. He showed that the story took place at a certain time when three dollars was expensive. Williams also used symbolism to show just how scared the little girl was during the doctor’s visit. Finally, he chose to use imagery to further prove how scared the little girl was and to even show how the doctor was able to take her point of view. William Carlos Williams’ use of all of these literary elements supported his message that there are in fact two sides to every situation.

Works Cited
Williams, William C. “The Use of Force.” Making Arguments About Literature. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. New York: Boston, 2005. Print.…...

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