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Annotated Paragraph

The child was fairly eating me up with her cold, steady eyes, and no expression to her face whatever. She did not move and seemed, inwardly, quiet; an unusually attractive little thing, and as strong as a heifer in appearance. But her face was flushed, she was breathing rapidly, and I realized that she had a high fever. She had magnificent blonde hair, in profusion. One of those picture children often reproduced in advertising leaflets and the photogravure sections of the Sunday papers.

-A paragraph from “The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams.


In the selected paragraph from, “The Use of Force,” by William Carlos Williams, there are more than just literal meanings in the text. When one looks more closely at the syntax and the authors’ word choice, one will see a more deeper and almost darker literary meaning; Is it moral to hurt someone for their own benefit? And if so, what if you actually enjoy the infliction of pain you are giving?

In the beginning of the paragraph, the author starts with detailed imagery of a young girl. Right away, the reader gets a sense of the young girl’s personality through her demeanor towards the doctor, who is the narrator. For example in the first line, “The child was fairly eating me up with her cold, steady eyes, and no expression to her face whatever.” The word choice of “eating me up” is a use of personification. The doctor feels as if the young girl is immediately evaluating him, but in reality, the young girl is simply looking at him with her eyes.  Another word choice in that sentence is the word “cold.” The denotation of “cold” is a low temperature. The connotation however, is unpleasant and undesirable. This gives even more meaning to the young girl’s stare because it is obvious to the reader that the young girl has distain towards the doctor.  This also seems to be a hint of foreshadowing which proves true when leading up to the climax of the text.

The author also uses a simile to further describe the young girl. “She did not move and seemed, inwardly, quiet; an unusually attractive little thing, and as strong as a heifer in appearance.” The last few words in the sentence, “…as strong as a heifer in appearance,” are a simile. The author is comparing the young girl to a heifer, using the word “as.” The word “heifer” is also a specific adjective that means a cow about to give birth, thus that the young girl is ready for the battle that lies ahead of her. Once again, this is another hint of foreshadowing. The use of syntax in the sentence overall leads to this lasting effect in the reader’s mind, because of the specific way the author chose to arrange the selection of words.

The author also chooses specific vocabulary that is not popular in modern times of today. For example, the word “profusion” and “photogravure.” Profusion means a large quantity of something. In the sentence “profusion” is being used to describe the young girl’s blonde hair. However, if one looks more closely, the blonde hair could also symbolize the magnitude of the girls’ strength and courage for her age.  The word “photogravure” is used in the last line of the paragraph. Photogravure is an image produced from a photographic negative, then transferred to a metal plate and etched in. This definition would be the denotation of the word photogravure. The connotation of the word could be interpreted as a characteristic of the girl’s personality; “…transferred to a metal plate and etched in,” signifies the toughness of the young girl.

To an average reader, the selected paragraph from the story “The use of Force,” by William Carlos Williams, could simply be just a story of a sick young girl and how a doctor came to help heal her. However, if one takes the time to analyze each sentence and closely examine the choice of syntax and word choice, one can get a deeper meaning of the text. The theme of the story is not about a doctor who sought out to hurt the young girl, but of a man who is dealing with his own moral dilemma and ethical reasoning. How far would one go to help someone else, regardless of the consequences?

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