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A Lack Of Authority Essay

1448 words - 6 pages

An essential aspect of the autobiography is the writer’s authority to tell the story. Thomas De Quincey believes that has this authority with his work Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. He writes about his personal experience taking opium in a two part serial. This experience is what De Quincey thinks gives him the authority to talk about opium and its effects on the “opium-eater.” The title of his work, however, shows that De Quincey does not have the credibility to discuss the matters of opium because the title is misleading. Opium is taken either injected or smoked or drank, not eaten. By introducing the work with a deceptive title, De Quincey presents the idea that he does not have the authority to write about the effects of opium, whether he knows it or not, because he himself is deluded about its negative effects.
Confessions of an Opium-Eater begins with a false portrayal of the work: it as an experiment, almost scientific. He deems his account as “not merely interesting, but, in a considerable degree, useful and instructive” (De Quincey 1). He hopes that by recounting his findings to the public, they will be “instructive” in the way the people choose to deal with opium (De Quincey 1). De Quincey does not possess the authority to present his research in the manner, because he is a scholar not a scientist. He subtitles the narrative as “an extract from the life of a scholar” (De Quincey 1). Therefore, it is odd that De Quincey chooses to begin his actual confessions with a scientific tone. Additionally, De Quincey commences his recount of events with the phrase “useful and instructive” and later says that he will present both the positive and negative effects of the drug (De Quincey 1). He, however, points of the uses of opium, but De Quincey does not fully point out the negative effects of the drug because he cannot truly see them being an addict. De Quincey is not purposely trying to deceive the public, but because of his own addiction to the drug, he cannot help doing so.
De Quincey continues to deceive others, including himself throughout the confessions. He deludes himself into seeing benefits of opium during the negative effects. He begins using the drug to escape physical pain. Now that the “pains had vanished [it was] now a trifle in [his] eyes: —this negative effect was swallowed up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before [him]” (De Quincey 39). Using opium gives De Quincey “an inner eye and power of intuition of the vision and the mysteries of…human nature” (De Quincey 5). He believes that without taking opium he would not possess this “inner eye” that can unveil the mystery surrounding humanity. Even during terrifying experiences, resulting from the usage of opium, De Quincey continues to marvel at the wondrous powers of the drug. He concludes his confessions by stating that the object of the narrative “was to display the marvelous agency of opium, whether for pleasure or for pain: it that is...

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