The Use of Force
Genre: Short Story
- Aull, Felice
- Date of entry: Mar-05-2002
A physician is summoned to make a housecall on a family with whom he has had no prior contact. He quickly sizes up the situation: the household is poor but clean; the patient is a female child whose parents are nervously concerned, dependent on, yet distrustful of the doctor. The child's beauty and penetrating stare make an immediate impression on him.
Concerned that diphtheria may be the cause of illness, he uses his customary professional manner to determine whether or not the child has a sore throat. But the child will have none of it and "clawed instinctively for my eyes." The attempt at an examination rapidly escalates into a physical "battle" as the physician, convinced that it is crucial to see the child's throat "and feeling that I must get a diagnosis now or never," becomes ever more enraged and forceful while the girl continues to resist with all her strength, and the parents are in an agony of fear for her health and embarrassment over her behavior.
This is no longer a professional encounter. The doctor admits at the beginning of the struggle to having "fallen in love with the savage brat" and recognizes that he is behaving irrationally. The closing sequence could as easily be depicting a rape as a forced throat examination.
The Doctor Stories
The William Carlos Williams Reader