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Alcohol In Literature Essay

2009 words - 8 pages

The abuse of substances such as alcohol and other harmful drugs (perhaps even a vicious combination composed of a number of the many possible constituents) is an aspect of life that arises simply from the manifestation of human nature itself—an incredibly profound and complex calamity which stems from this vague, yet familiar, source. It is a sword with many edges and a lust for its victims, and if taken to the extents of excess, will function as an inescapable common denominator for the division of an addict’s life and priorities. There is a certain notion, often espoused by former drug abusers, “that you can get a lot higher without drugs than you can with them.” However, throughout history there has existed a countess number of people, groups, and cultures who have employed drugs and alcohol as a means of “fuel”/self-propulsion, in similar magnitudes to what it takes an average American family to run a car for a year, and without which would have left nothing near as great of a scar on the facet of history’s withered skin. Hunter Thompson once noted, when attempting to get a handle on the meaning of the infamous Hell’s Angels mystique, that it is a fine line between survival and disaster—a fair definition of luck as well:
The Edge…There is no honest way to explain it, because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others—the living—are those who pushed their control as far as they thought they could handle it, and then pulled back, slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came to chose between Now and Later. But the edge is still out there. Or maybe it’s in. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no act of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions (Thompson 271).

There are certain points throughout an author’s career when their words roll off the keys or pen like little pieces of treasure, when it is known that this glimmer of genius will effect people a great deal, for many years. This quote is one of those points. Drugs and alcohol speak to something in us, as humans, which does not operate in the same place or under the same parameters defined by logic and acceptable behavior; a sort of obfuscated field of grass where good men howl and the “place of definitions” that Thompson elegantly spoke of is never really found. For this essential reason, literature has exercised the heavy use of and dependence on alcohol (alcoholism) and drugs as a theme to develop characterization, symbolism, plot, and put into perspective the effect that this hindrance has on the consumer and all those in contact with this person/group. Alcoholism as a theme is a large contributor to the ever swelling literary phenomenon of intertextuality, or the red thread that connects all pieces of literature on either some perceptible or subconscious level. This interconnection then helps to analyze a piece based on a more universal human experience.
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