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Under the Influence


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Scott Russell Sanders once said, "When the pain of leaving behind what we know outweighs the pain of embracing it, or when the power we face is overwhelming and neither flight nor fight will save us, there may be salvation in sitting still. And if salvation is impossible, then at least before perishing we may gain a clearer vision of where we are. By sitting still I do not mean the paralysis of dread, like that of a rabbit frozen beneath the dive of a hawk. I mean something like reverence, a respectful waiting, a deep attentiveness to forces much greater than our own." (Goodreads.com). This quote represents the author’s life when he makes decisions in his life that he regrets doing. (Gale). The story is about a son who grew up with an alcoholic father and how the father dies from his body shutting down. At the end the boy states that he is four times more likely to be an alcoholic then kids who don’t have alcoholic parents. Also, the son then realizes he is in his father’s shoes. This story is also a true story based on the author’s life. People choose this reader response because they can relate to their life in a way. Using Reader Response criticism, a reader can analyze “Under the Influence” using the aspects of character, relation to their own life, and action.


First, a reader can analyze this story using one aspect of character which relates to the author’s life. In the beginning of the story the author states synonyms of the word drunk. “Consider a few of our synonyms for drunk: tipsy, tight, pickled, soused and plowed; stoned and stewed, lubricated and inebriated, juiced and sluiced; three sheets to the wind, in your cups, out of your mind, under the table, lit up, tanked up, wiped out: besotted, blotto, bombed and bussed; plastered, polluted, putrefied; loader or looped, boozy, woozy, fuddled, or smashed; crocked and s***-faced, corked and pissed, snockered and sloshed” (Sanders). These synonyms were used in Sanders life on a daily basis. Also, Sanders has brought the bible and religion into the disease of alcoholism. “Bible and sermons and hymns combined to give us the impression that Moses should have brought down from the mountain another stone tablet bearing the eleventh commandment: Thou shall not drink” (Sanders). This quote is saying that drinking is so evil and makes people evil that it should be the eleventh commandment and people must obey it if they believe in God.

Next, some parts of the story relates to my own life. Alcoholism does run in my family but really only affected two people, my dad and my grandpa “I was mortified. It hurt me so badly that this disease was what had been eating away at my dad. I kept wondering why it had to happen to us, to him, to me” (No one stereotype). In December, the doctors had put my dad on the liver transplant list and my grandpa is currently dying due to this disease. Alcohol can change a person’s mind and attitude in a matter of seconds. “In matter of minutes, the content of a bottle could transform a brave man into a coward, a buddy into a bully, a gifted athlete and skilled carpenter and shrewd business man into a bumbler” (Sanders). My former step-dad is also an alcoholic and he was sweet when he was sober but then when he consumed alcohol everything changed.

Finally, the action in the story is what shows the consequences of alcohol. The mind is very vulnerable to the consumption of alcohol as told in the story. “When drunk, our father was clearly in his wrong mind. He became a stranger, as fearful to us as any graveyard lunatic, not quite frothing at the mouth but fierce enough, quick-tempered, explosive: or else he grew maudlin and weepy, which frightened us nearly as much” (Sanders). Alcohol makes people be who they are not. It alters the way they think and they have no control over it. Also, there is no way that one can hide drinking from their own family. “We flung ourselves at him for hugs, and felt against our ribs the telltale lump in his coat” (sanders). Drinking is an obsession that people have and can’t quit just cold turkey. Drinking also doesn’t only affect the user but their family as well. “Living with an alcoholic is definitely hard. There were times when I blamed myself and was even suicidal,” said the girl who is remaining anonymous to avoid problems at home” (Alcoholism). This quote is about a girl who was affected by her life living with an alcoholic and all the stress it puts on her life.

To conclude, using the aspects of character, relation to their own life, and action, a reader can analyze “Under the Influence” while using Reader Response criticism. The significance of the story is that a son had realized that he has a family now and he is turning out to be his dead father: an alcoholic. He knows the consequences of becoming an alcoholic and knows what he puts his family through. In the world there are a lot of alcoholics and it causes a lot of stress for their families. There are prevention groups as well to go to for this disease.


Works Cited
“A Private History of Awe.” Publishers Weekly 252.43 (2005): 40+. Gale Student

Resources in Context. Web. 18 Apr. 2011
Kelly, Nikki. "Alcoholism Takes Its Toll--especially on the Children." Fairmontflyer.com. 4 Apr. 2011. Web. 2 May 2011. <http://www.fairmontflyer.com/features/2011/03/25/alcoholism-takes-its-toll-especially-on-the-children/>.
P, Nia. "There Is No One Stereotype for an Alcoholic." Teenink.com. 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 2 May 2011. <http://teenink.com/nonfiction/all/article/9459/There-Is-No-One-Stereotype-For-An-Alchoholic/>.
Sanders, Scott Russell. Under the Influence. Print.
"Scott Russell Sanders Quotes." Goodreads.com. Web. 2 May 2011. <http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/33375.Scott_Russell_Sanders>.



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