The Use of Force as a Research of the Concept of Aggression

Aggression has accompanied people since the ancient times. Moreover, its recent manifestations have become universal. They include open aggression, which arises in active conflict situations, and hidden aggression, which cannot be detected clearly but manifests itself in certain circumstances. While this behavior is essential for anyone, the primary problem remains the way of coping with it. The literature as a mirror of human nature contains different descriptions and analyzes hatred and aggression. One of the most notable examples of this issue could be seen in The Use of Force by William Carlos Williams. In his short story, Williams examines human nature from the perspective of violence and pleasure. He shows the conflict between the doctor and the little girl to demonstrate the dark side of every person. Therefore, the most important statement of the novel claims that hatred which begets violence is an integral part of human nature, and the main character is not just mentally ill.

The concept of aggression has been drawing the attention of scientists for a long time. Sigmund Freud revised his own theory and outlined that the desires to destroy and to love are essential to every human. Erich Fromm in his preface to Anatomy of Human Destructiveness divides the aggression on “malignant” and “benign.” While the second type can be observed among animals, Fromm insists that desires to destroy and torture are particularly human concepts. Moreover, the manifestation of aggression is always accompanied by pleasure. Williams elaborates the connection between them, “I could have torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to attack her.” Such relations are extremely dangerous for human nature since they can become the only way of existence of an individual.

While the scientists seek for answers, the modern art asks the questions. For example, in 1974 in Naples, Marina Abramovic made the performance titled “Rhythm 0” that allowed the audience to do whatever they want with Abramovic’s body with the help of different objects (Marina Abramovic Institute). The result was terrifying. Eventually, her clothes were cut, her body was gored by rose thorns, and some people even tried to drink her blood. Another example is Wafaa Bilal, American artist of Iraqi origin, who in 2007 created an art project named “Domestic Tension” against the War in Iraq. Anyone could shoot the artist with a real paintball weapon through the Internet. Carol Becker claims that, as a result, for 30 days he was shot 60,000 times by people from 128 countries and experienced the strongest stress. These examples are only a small part of the large number of manifestations of aggression. They, as well as Williams’ story, ask the same question about the significant role of aggression in the society that succeeded in the implementation of the variety of ethical concepts and rules. 

Williams does not provide clear answers, but rather forces the readers to make their own reflections and conclusions. The analysis of evil side of human nature is the primary goal of the author. Williams finds the real causes of hatred, “A blind fury, a feeling of adult shame, bred of a longing for muscular release are the operatives.” The primary motive of the aggression is hatred that includes such emotions as disgust, anger, and hostility and promotes depressed mood that leads to despair and isolation. It can be seen as essential conditions for the emergence and manifestation of aggression to the object of hatred. In Williams’ short story, it is difficult to imagine how hatred to the child can rise in the man whose profession is to support and rescue. Thus, hatred is a complex negative emotional phenomenon that includes the long-term range of negative attitudes, motives, emotions, and tendencies aimed at the object which can be individual, group, or process.


As any complex and controversial concept, aggression can include completely opposite emotions. Williams finds an extremely interesting mix of hatred and passion to the object of violence, “After all, I had already fallen in love with the savage brat.” Moreover, the aggression itself consists of the opposites. This complicated phenomenon requires an extremely low amount of time for the ordinary person to start hating the object. The doctor in Williams’ story becomes aggressive just after the first attempts of acquaintance proving this shocking fact. As the reader can see, even this time is enough to empower the doctor with a desire to “go to on to the end”. While these opposites make the analysis of the aggression more detailed, they still do not provide the whole picture of this phenomenon. 

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The common opinion claims that another cause of the aggression is the society that creates the environment for the development of hatred and violence. The average modern human holds the gadgets in each hand, watches a movie on a big screen, and clearly realizes that he/she stands on the path of absolute and unconditional progress with the rest of people. However, they easily could become a victim, because, as it turns out, technological progress is not always able to have a positive impact on the development of the human mind. The lack of morality and continued changes of moral principles in the modern society lead to the fact that, along with a large number of serious crimes, there are people who choose a victim basing only on belonging to the human race. However, the society in Williams’ short story does not play any role and have no impact on the narrative. The author limits the description of community with a couple of sentences concentrating on the main characters.


The fact of the absence of sufficient description of the environment and focus on inner nature allows the readers to consider the aggression as the inherent quality of this particular person. The main character of the story speaks and thinks as a typical sociopath. Williams clearly formulates his feelings, “The parents were contemptible to me. In the ensuing struggle they grew more and more abject, crushed, exhausted.” Therefore, the doctor can have a serious mental disorder. Moreover, he sees the whole situation as some kind of a battle that shows his misperception of the conflict. However, this point of view is refuted by the behavior of the little girl and her parents. They help the doctor to use physical force and do not even try to question his methods. The girl herself demonstrates how every human learns to hate from the young age and how parents can play a crucial role in this process.

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The study of the concept of aggression has a significant influence on a modern human. While different art performances try to show the consequences, William focuses on the analysis. Examining the concept of aggression, he finds real causes and hidden motives of the violence. Moreover, by demonstration of conflicting feelings of the main character, Williams proves that aggression is a complex phenomenon that consists of the variety of opposites. The focus on the particular character rather than community forces to consider the doctor as a person with mental disorder, but further actions refute this thought. Therefore, the aggression can be considered as a feature that is inherent to any person. However, the ideas aimed at inciting hatred or enmity, humiliation of dignity on the grounds of belonging to a gender, race, or nationality should be recognized as detrimental to the development of the society. Therefore, drawing attention of the community to the problem of excessive aggression is an important mission of media and culture. The Use of Force by William Carlos Williams fully copes with this task forcing the reader to analyze and reflect.

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