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The Use of Force Research Paper sample essay

William Carlos Williams (1883- 1963) is one of the prominent personas of American Poetry. He received his Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Academy of Arts and Letters gold medal for poetry from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1963. Despite Williams’ recognition as one of the elite poets of the twentieth century, he was also known for his writings in many other genres. Williams’ life story was a result of all his plans that didn’t fall into place. He wanted to be an athlete, a forester, something that was totally opposite from the career that he had as a pediatrician. “ I was rather pushed into medicine rather than choosing it myself. My own choice was to be a forester…I like to be outdoors and had no intention of becoming a physician at all…” * W.C. Williams.

He originally wanted to marry his wife’s older sister, but his brother turned out to propose to her first. Williams turned to writing poems, short stories, novels, books, plays and translations to find comfort and solidarity. Most of his writings were about people and situation that he encountered in his life. He used his characters to depict what the conditions of the Americans during his time were facing: Poverty and Suffering. Williams was born and raised in a family of morally strict people who lived in Rutherford, New Jersey. Williams’ father was a businessman of English descent, and his mother, an amateur painter from Puerto Rico.

He attended Horace Mann High School in New York City with his brother Edgar. Williams had always been athletic until he was diagnosed with a weak heart and can no longer do anything strenuous. During his years at Horace Mann High School, he developed his passion for writing through his English teacher named Uncle Billy Abott. He taught Williams to use the sorrows and distresses that he had during those times as an inspiration to start writing. From then on, Williams used writing to “rescue himself under all sorts of conditions and also to relieve his feelings of distress.” (Williams).

When Williams’ dreams of becoming an athlete were thrown out of the picture because of his medical condition, his mother suggested to him the idea of entering the medical field. In 1902, he got admitted medical school University of Pennsylvania and received his MD in 1906. He then interned and studied advanced pediatrics in Leipzig, Germany for three years. It was during his stay in University of Pennsylvania that he began his lifelong friendship with Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound, one of the most famous poets of his time, opened the doors for Williams’ name to finally be recognize and acquainted with the greatest poets of their generation, including Hilda Doolittle, Wallace Stevens, and Marriane Moore. In 1909, he came back to Rutherford and paid for the publication of his first book, Poems, which only sold four copies. Williams’ married Florence Herman (1891-1976) in 1912 after his proposal to Florence’s older sister was refused (“The New York Times”).

They settled down in Rutherford, where he ran a private medical practice for more than forty years. In 1913, Williams’ second poetry collection, The Tempers, was published. With the help of Pound, this poetry collection established Williams’ as an important voice in American Poetry. Williams watched his father slowly die of cancer in the winter of 1918. While he was on call, his father passed away, forever leaving Williams with doubts and questions. “The Clouds” was a poem Williams wrote about his father and the circumstances surrounding his death (Williams). Williams suffered from his first of many strokes in the 1940s. His health condition caused him to retire as physician in 1952. He died on March 4, 1963; due to a cerebral hemorrhage he had in his sleep at his home.

Williams’ short story collection began to appear in the 1930’s. He seemed to have turned into fiction in this point because of the consistent discouragement he met within his attempts to be recognized as a poet. In his frustration, he found the short story “a good medium for nailing down a single conviction. Emotionally. “(Flachmann par. 5). Many of Williams’ stories were autobiographical, having to do with a doctor and his patients, usually the immigrants who live along the banks of the Passaic River. Williams objectively used his characters to show the poverty and suffering that was present in those times. His second short- story collection, Life along the Passaic River (1938), included the story “The Use of Force”.

“The Use of Force” was first published in 1933 as one of the contracted stories he had promised the editors of the proletarian magazine Blast. The story can be linked with two major historical events of the 1930’s: The effect of Great Depression and the epidemic disease Diphtheria that killed millions of children. “When Williams wrote his “ The Use of Force” in 1933…he was at the height of his social consciousness and his pain over the fact that many of his patients were living in poverty” (Wagner- Martin).

Williams admitted that he was a more mature writer in writing “The Use of Force”. He presented direct quotations from characters without using quotation marks to indicate that these are things that were actually said out loud (Constantakis). This allowed him to sound casual and spontaneous while he took the chance to confuse his readers, by leaving out the quotation marks.

At the beginning of the story, an unnamed doctor arrived at the house of his new patients the Olsons. Mrs. Olson met the doctor and led him to the kitchen were her daughter Mathilda was being kept. The doctor described Mathilda as an attractive girl with a “magnificent blonde hair” (Williams par. 4). The doctor met the father who told him that his daughter has had a fever for three days. He then asked them if Mathilda’s throat hurts, and both parents answered that she said it doesn’t hurt her. From the moment the doctor-stepped foot in the Olson’s house, Mathilda had not yet said a word to him. “ The child was fairly eating me up with her cold, steadt eyes, and no expressions to her face whatever…” (Williams par. 4). Mathilda viewed the doctor as an enemy and refused to talk to him (Constantakis).

The doctor nicely asked her to open her mouth so he can check her throat, but he got nothing from her. The doctor seemed to be convinced that his patient was hiding something from them. The story goes on with the doctor and Mathilda playing the battle of the wills. The more Mathilda tried to keep her mouth close, the more the doctor felt a strong urge to open it up. The further the story went on, the greater the changes in the doctor and Mathilda’s personalities became noticeable. The doctor transitioned from being a professional and experienced doctor, who seemed to know how to handle everything about his patients, to a guy that was being carried away by his emotions. Mathilda transitioned from being a cold and quite young girl to a loud and emotional “savage brat” (Williams par. 22).

Both the characters of the doctor and Mathilda reflected Williams’ personal battles in life. Mathilda reflects the first battle Williams faced during his younger years: the battle of learning to accept the unaccepted. Williams gave all his best to become an athlete just to find out that he has a weak heart and can never be anything close to his dreams. Mathilda was afraid to open her mouth because she knows the doctor will find out what she was hiding: a potential case of diphtheria. “If it is not discovered, it does not exist. But if it is discovered, she knows she will lose control.” (Flachmann). Both Mathilda and Williams lost control of themselves in the process of being diagnosed. Williams was left clueless of what to do with his life and just followed his mother’s suggestion of becoming a doctor while Mathilda broke down and lashed out on the doctor.

“As I moved my chair a little nearer suddenly with one catlike movement both her hands clawed instinctively for my eyes…” (Williams par.17). William lived his life with two totally opposite natures. Despite being a well-known poet of his generation, the people around his neighborhood only knew him as a local physician. The doctor in the story was portrayed to be professional, very experienced, and well mannered. But as the story got intense and his patient pushed him to his limits, the doctor found himself with a very different personality and approach in dealing with Mathilda. He wanted to maintain his professional demeanor but his alter ego took over him. “But now I also had grown furious– at a child. I tried to hold myself down but I couldn’t…”(Williams 29). Nobody in town had known the doctor for such temperament and more so, the doctor himself. The doctor seemed to have portrayed Williams’ battle to find the balance between the opposites.

In reading both Williams’ biography and “The Use of Force”, it was evident that Williams was writing his experiences as a physician with his poor and suffering patients. Though it wasn’t given out in the story that the Olsons were poor and a lot of people were suffering from the consequences of poverty, he mentioned that “… 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… As it happens, we had been having a number of cases of diphtheria in the school to which this child went…” (Williams par. 3.11). Furthermore, Williams also used his characters to reflect pieces of himself, neither as a writer nor a poet but as William Carlos Williams to his audience.

Flachmann, Kim. “William Carlos Williams.” American Short-Story Writers. 1910-1945: First Series. Ed. Bobby Ellen Kimbel. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. Rosenthal, M. L. and Wagner-Martin, Linda. “Williams’ Life and Career”. Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 86. Literature Resource Center. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. “Mrs. Williams C Williams.” Editorial. The New York Times 20 May 1976. The New York Times. Apr. 2008. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. “The Use of Force.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Sara Constantakis. Vol. 27. Detroit: Gale, 2009. 225-240. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. “The Use of Force–William Carlos Williams (1883-1963).” Classic Short Stories. B&L Associates, Bangor, Maine, U.S.A. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. “William Carlos Williams.” The Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The Pennsylvania State University. Web. 01 Apr. 2012.

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