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Violence is described as exercising physical force, usually intended to cause injury but, can it be more. Can violence in an essay affect its objective or help the reader interpret information? In Orwell's "A Hanging" and William Carlos Williams' "The Use of Force", violence is more than just a means for destruction. In these essays, violence is actually a way of conveying a message.
Orwell uses violence in his essay to help the reader understand and relate with the characters. A prisoner is sentenced to death by hanging. In the events that lead up to the violent punishment, the author has us feeling what the characters are experiencing. The prisoner may be condemned to die but, at that moment, he is very much alive. He moves out of the way of a puddle to avoid getting wet. (Orwell 29) He is the target of a playful dog. His organs are still functioning and they will up until his last moments alive. The narrator, a policemen realizes that they are about to take a life that is "in full tide". (Orwell 29) He hears the prisoner call out to his God and knows his life will be cut short. The superintendent lets the prisoner continue his cries for some time until he can no longer bear hearing them. The Indian wanders had all "gone grey like bad coffee" (Orwell 31) and silently wished that the deed would be done. To kill him quickly was on the minds of every witness. To just be done with ending a life. When the prisoner was finally quiet and unmoving, everyone was in a much lighter state of mind. This shows that the violence greatly affected how each character reacted to a single event. This in turn, sets a mood for the reader and let's them feel the agony and distress the characters are feeling.
The violence portrayed in William Carlos Williams' "The Use of Force" is also used to interpret the characters thoughts. The doctor has violent thoughts and strange feelings of happiness while trying to help the sick child. The doctor explains how much enjoyment he receives from tormenting the girl:
But the worst of it was that I too had got beyond reason. I could have torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to attack her. My face was burning with it. (Williams' 40)
This strange enjoyment helps the reader understand how the doctor feels and foreshadows future events in the essay. The child, who never speaks also, shows the reader how much she despises the doctor. She will not open her mouth and let him examine her. She wouldn't let the man near her and violently did all she could to prevent the doctor from seeing she was sick. Including, "reducing a wooden spatula to splinters" (Williams' 40) before he could check her throat. By seeing both the doctor and child's anger, the reader gets a sense of shock. They will also be able to conclude that the end of the story could not possibly be a good one.
Both "A Hanging" and "The Use of Force" uses violence to give the reader inside information on the characters. The police officer in "A Hanging" and the doctor in "The Use of Force" are partaking in violent actions. The police officer is a witness to the hanging of a prisoner and the doctor must hurt a child in order to examine her. Each character is not necessarily evil but, from the way they are acting the reader can assume they are. They both also come to a meaningful conclusion. The doctor knows that if he doesn't do whatever he can to examine the child, she may die of diphtheria. The police officer realizes that they are about to take the life of a fully functioning human and how fragile that life really is.
The two essays are also alike in which the main character has some type of high authority over a distressed character. The doctor in "The Use of Force" is trying to cure a young patient and a police officer in "A Hanging" is bringing a man to his death. Both of them may have authority but, at some point feel a sense of uselessness and degradation. The police officer knows a life is about to be taken and regardless of how he feels about it, hopes it will happen quickly. The doctor becomes angry and annoyed with the young girl when she will not open her mouth for him to examine her and momentarily accepts defeat. In the end, the lesser character in the one who suffers from the violence while the main character completes what they set out to do.
The use of violence in an essay can be tricky to work with. Depending on how the work is written, violence can be interpreted in many ways. Mainly it is seen to be hurtful and nothing meaningful can come from it. I disagree, I believe when presented in the way it has been in these two works, violence can be a method of truly expressing what the writer wants to convey to the reader. May it be to increase knowledge about the characters or to add to the plot, violence can actually be helpful.
Orwell, George. A Hanging., 1931. 27-33. Print.
Williams, William C. The Use of Force., 1931. 35-41. Print.