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Consider The Use of Force by William Carlos Williams to prove and interrogate Laura Mulvey's theory of the patriarchal gaze - Essay Example

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Summary
Instructor name Date Visual Pleasure and Use of Force In William Carlos Williams' short story "Use of Force," the reader is presented with a violent and disturbing encounter between a doctor and a little girl. The story begins when the doctor arrives in response to a house call…
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Consider The Use of Force by William Carlos Williams to prove and interrogate Laura Mulvey's theory of the patriarchal gaze

Download file to see previous pages... The more she fights against him, the more the doctor insists on the examination until it is an all-out war there in the kitchen. Although the doctor finally gets a successful examination, confirming his fears that the girl does have diptheria and has been keeping it hidden from her parents, he is left feeling very disturbed by the encounter. While it is possible to come up with some conclusions about this story without outside input, it is helpful to examine it in light of a theorist such as Laura Mulvey, who applied psychoanalytic theory to film studies in 1975 in her essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Although she relates her ideas to film, Mulvey's concept that the one who looks has all the power is easily applicable to Williams' story. Within her article, Mulvey examines how pre-existing patterns of behavior and social formations has shaped conventions of story-telling and how that has in turn helped shape a patriarchal society. She makes the case that our ideas of meaning are defined mostly by men who associate their masculinity with their ability to name, define, and control reality. "The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. An idea of woman stands as lynch pin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her desire to make good the lack that the phallus signifies” (Mulvey 6). In other words, the patriarchic world view is founded on the idea that woman are missing a vital part of the human being, which automatically sets up the man as superior because he does have this part. Because she knows she is missing it, the theory holds, the woman is eager to do what she must to make it up by appropriately lending herself to others' vision of her. Mulvey indicates that Hollywood movies depend on this theme as a means of reaching out to the alienated individual and reinforce the patriarchal obsessions. These are difficult ideas to understand until they are applied to a real-world example, such as Williams' story. Reflecting the language of patriarchy It almost seems the story is written specifically to provide a lesson on the rules of patriarchy as the doctor emerges as the sole narrator. Only his thoughts and opinions matter, which is true both for the reader and for the little family within the home. Among his earliest comments concern his arrival at the home. "When I arrived I was met by the mother, a big startled looking woman, very clean and apologetic" (Williams). His comments are startling not just because they contain no pleasantries at the door in greeting, but because of the clear assessment he is making of the woman based entirely on this first impression of her. Describing her as “big” sets her up as existing outside of the traditional female ideal; she is not the ‘little’ woman in the home. Adding the description that she is “startled looking” begins to give the impression that perhaps she is not very bright and clearly not attractive. "In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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