Use of Force

The desire for control can destroy or build nations, lose or save lives, and break down or build up one’s reputation. Though this desire is ubiquitous in society, it has a negative impact on many, regardless of its intent. In “Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams, control and its causes are main themes discussed in the short story. The vicious cycle of desiring control, helplessness, frustration, and anger is repeated throughout the work. Since the dawn of time, there has been a hunger for power – in animals and humans alike.

This craving for control is mainly exhibited by Mathilda and the doctor in “Use of Force”. As the story begins, the doctor and Mathilda appear civilized and respectful individuals. However, as the tale unfolds, an animal-like instinct takes over the both of them and a power struggle ensues. For example, ” The child was fairly eating me up with her cold, steady eyes, and no expression to her face whatever.” (Williams, 19) This attitude exudes dominance and shows resistance towards help.

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“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.” (Williams, 66) The diction in this quote shows that Mathilda is regressing into a primal state. One may not be surprised to find a child acting in such a manner, however when a middle aged doctor behaves this way, eyebrows raise in disapproval. “But the worst of it was that I too had got beyond reason. I could have torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it.

It was a pleasure to attack her. My face was burning with it.” (Williams, 143) Savage nature lies within everyone regardless of occupation, economic and social status, or race and can be unmasked with enough frustration or anger. This idea is not only evident in “Use of Force” but also in other works of literature. In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the concept that a barbaric instinct lies within all humans is also conveyed.

“Maybe there is a beast…maybe it’s only us.”(Golding, pg. 80) In the novel, the group of boys have developed a fear for a beast that roams the island, according to some. When Simon suggests that there is not a beast, and “maybe it’s only us” (Golding, 80) he does not realize the great meaning behind his statement. Within everyone lies a beast that feeds off of anger and frustration and leaves the victim filled with the need for power and savage tendencies.

While primal behavior is associated with human nature, there is more to mankind than basic animalistic desires. Man thirsts for education, civilization, and culture. However, when difficult situations arise, this thirst becomes outweighed by the hunger for control. Human nature, though uncivilized, is not an unalterable fate. In the end, it is up to one’s self to decide whether to resort to those instincts or contradict them.