Gradually, the viewers pleasure of being the knowing doctor shifts to the pleasure of socially-sanctioned unwilling penetration: “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,” says the doctor as he grows angry with the girls intransigence. Mulvey might assert that the girls illness makes her into a kind of erotic object, a being that can be legitimately observed and penetrated by both the doctor and the viewer, which the doctor takes pleasure in subduing. The readers alignment with the doctors thought processes grows closer and closer as the penetration is about to take place. The doctor tries to sweet talk the girl, and is frustrated by the protections of the mother, almost as if he were a suitor: “If only they wouldnt use the word hurt I might be able to get somewhere,” he thinks. “The spectator identifies with the main male protagonist” as a “screen surrogate,” in a film, and in this case, with the doctor as a literary surrogate, while he is objectifying the girl (Mulvey 838).
According to Mulvey, as a film progresses, more often than not a glamorous, seemingly unreachable and untouchable woman becomes progressively more accessible, often debased. The girls righteous fury, which makes her beautiful, is gradually subdued over the course of the narrative. “I had already fallen in love with the savage brat, the parents were contemptible to me. In the ensuing struggle they grew more and more abject, crushed, exhausted while she surely rose to magnificent heights of insane fury of effort bred of her terror of me.” Violence and love is mixed together in the doctors mind, just as it is so often in constructions of romance in the cinema.
The girls cries when the doctor tries to access her are like the cries of a woman being raped: “Dont, youre hurting me. Let go of my hands. Let them go I tell youStop it! Stop it! Youre killing me!” The mother tries to shield the girl, but the reader is clearly instructed to believe that the mother is being overly sentimental and wrong, and is informed by both the doctor and the girls father that the child will die unless the doctor forces his tongue depressor down her daughters throat. “Cinema builds the way she [the female protagonist] is to be looked at into the spectacle itself (Mulvey 843). Although the Williams story may be a written drama, it is a story of a spectacle, the spectacle of a girls first unwilling penetration by a male, who violates her for her own good to save her life. The male is knowing and the woman is ignorant. And the reader is built into the spectacle of the drama in such a way as to take the doctors perspective, without questioning if the drama could have proceeded differently.
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism:
Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York:.