Conflicts and Courses of Response in Williams` Story
Conflictsand Courses of Response in Williams’ Story
Williams’TheUse of Forceportrays the conflict that develop when a doctor attempts to diagnoseMathilda, a little girl. Using persuasion, formality, and coercion,the doctor tries to examine Mathilda’s mouth, but she resists allefforts through indifference, yelling, and kicking. She has kept thesecret of her sore throat thus, she knows she must stop the doctorand her parents from undertaking the inspection. On the other hand,her mother is mortified of how Mathilda is discourteous to the doctorwhile her father hates to upset her, but he abhors the idea that shemight die. It is imperative to highlight Williams’ development ofemotional, physical, internal, and external conflict during theexamination of Mathilda’s mouth.
Conflictsthat Drive the Story
Theauthor depicts the conflict between the doctor (narrator) andMathilda, a remarkably attractive little girl. The doctor requests tocheck the girl’s throat to make a diagnosis whether she hasdiphtheria, an illness that has stricken numerous people in theschool Mathilda attended. Coaxing Mathilda to open her mouth does nothelp, as her hands graze impulsively for the doctor’s eyes,knocking his glasses off. In this regard, the conflict developsbetween the resolve of the doctor to examine the throat and thegirl’s refusal to open the mouth. After Mathilda’s snub, Williamsopines, “I had to have a throat culture for her own protection”(23). This shows that he had no choice but to examine the esophagus,lest the girl dies from the bout of diphtheria. Moreover, thestruggle extends beyond the emotional and physical elements, asexplicated by the doctor’s deliberation on whether he can justifythe use of force on the child. The doctor narrates that he could havedesisted and come later, but he has seen kids lying dead of neglectthus, he had to inspect the throat to protect Mathilda againstherself.
Thecourse of Mathilda’s Response
Mathildaresists all attempts to have her esophagus examined since she hadbeen concealing the sore throat from her parents. When the doctortries to inspect the throat, she instinctively reaches for his eyes.Even after much coaxing, Mathilda still refuses the examination. Infact, throughout the persuasion, she does not change her expression,but during the struggle to open her throat, she rises to stunningpeaks of insane rage. Nevertheless, the girl resists all attempts tohave the examination. She screams and squeals frenziedly saying,“Stop it! Stop it! You’re killing me!” (Williams 23). Heryelling depicts her endless refusal of having the throat examined.Her resistance is so forceful that, “She fought, with clenchedteeth, desperately! …, and gripping the wooden blade between hermolars she reduced it to splinters” (Williams 23). Her attempts toresist the inspection bear meaning when in the end of the story, thedoctor says that Mathilda had wrestled intrepidly to hold him fromrealizing her secret. In fact, after she realizes that the doctor hasseen the sore throat, Williams writes, “She tried to get off herfather’s lap and fly at me while tears of defeat blinded her eyes”(24). This shows that her reaction is full-rage resistance andindifference (depicted by refusal to talk as well as failure tochange her expression).
TheCourse of the Doctor’s Reaction
Whenthe doctor first encounters Mathilda, he likes her unusually prettyappearance. He asks Mathilda her name in a professional voice andrequests her to open her mouth. The formal manner continues whenWilliams says, “Look, I said opening both hands wide, I haven’tanything in my hands. Just open up and let me see” (23). However,Mathilda refuses to open and now, he approaches her, but she knockshis glasses off. Instantly, the doctor knows he will have toforcefully open Mathilda’s mouth, probably because he has alreadyloved her and would not want her to die of diphtheria. The girlfights with her clenched teeth, which intensifies the doctor’sresolve to have her mouth open thus, he uses force and attempts toget the wooden blade between her incisors. However, he goes beyondreason and forcefully gets the depressor in her mouth. Williamsportrays the unreasonable assault when he says, “I could have tornthe child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it. It was a pleasure toattack her” (23). The reaction of the doctor shows that a person’suse of force may be defensible, but they find it hard to separatetheir standards and emotions. For example, at first the doctorbehaves very professional by approaching the girl in a standardmanner, but once she shows her reluctance to open the mouth, he failsto control his sentiments.
Theuse of coercion by the doctor and the failure by Mathilda to acceptthe examination of her mouth emphasize the conflict that develops inthe story. The doctor rationalizes his use of force by asserting thathe must examine the girl’s mouth. On the other hand, Mathildaresists the inspection, as she wants her to secret to remain unknown.
Williams,William Carlos. TheUse of Force.Associated Educational Services Corporation, 1967.
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