Diphtheria is an acute bacterial disease that usually affects the tonsils, throat, nose and/or skin. It is passed from person to person, usually by breathing in bacteria after a person has coughed, sneezed or laughed. It can also be spread by touching used tissues or by drinking from a glass that an infected person has used. Diphtheria can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis and in some cases death. In the short story The Use of Force, William Carlos Williams describes a doctor's standoff with a girl who could be suffering from this illness. It helps to show the seriousness of such a disease. It also demonstrates how sometime doctors can over step their bounds, and how frustration and aggression can change a persons temperament and behavior.
William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which point he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote the story The Use of Force in 1933. It is a short description of the Narrators visit to the Olson family's home. The family consists of a mother; who is a larger scared looking woman, the father; who is more emotionally strong than the mother, and the ill daughter. The daughter is described as " inwardly, quiet; an unusually attractive little thing" and depicted as having "magnificent blonde hair". It is said that she was "One of those picture children often reproduced in advertising leaflets and photogravure sections of the Sunday paper". The doctor seems intrigued by the little girl regardless of sickness. She is suspected to have diphtheria, which was a serious disease to deal with.
There are some key details that contribute to the doctors action, behavior, and the girls condition. First the girls condition. It was said that she had had a fever for three days .