Under The Influence By Scott Russell Sanders

Improved Essays
In “Under the Influence” by Scott Russell Sanders, an American novelist and English professor at Indiana University at Bloomington, the author explains the struggles he had to go through while dealing with his alcoholic father. Alcoholism has slowly transformed his father into a completely different person, and even a different creature at times. Every time his father would get drunk, Sanders and his family felt as if they were losing a piece of their closest relative. They felt ashamed of the disease that had consumed a portion of their family and this developed to an extent where telling other people was impossible, making their father’s alcoholism a secret that the family kept hidden and closed away from the rest of the world. They felt …show more content…
Alcoholism is not a disease that one is proud of. With the author’s family, they were afraid of the reaction that they may receive from others if they find out about this hateful contamination. The shame built up within him and his family has led to a secret that has stayed hidden from the rest of their community for all of their father’s life and even past that. Even as their father has passed away, they still keep this secret deep down within them. As Sanders stated, “The secret bores under the skin, gets in the blood, into the bone, and stays there” (89). He knows how this secret has become who he is because of the fortified shame. Sanders expands farther on the situation by comparing their secret to the aspects that construct the human body. This shows how this secret has become a part of who they are and how that can’t change, no matter what. Also, Sanders describes how he and his family never wanted to “confess the ugly” (89) that they knew. This is equivalent to how they looked at shame. The family had decided to keep the secret of their alcoholic father because of the feeling of shame that they had built up. This feeling of shame was apparent as Sanders writes, “Our neighborhood was high on the Bible, and the Bible was hard on the drunkards” (91). Sanders use of words in this shows how he used the Bible as comparison to how a person should behave. …show more content…
The author didn’t understand this concept when alcoholism had first consumed his father. He blamed himself for not being able to help his plagued father quit drinking. The author writes “I tell myself he drinks to ease an ache that gnaws at his belly, an ache that I must have caused by disappointing him somehow, a murderous ache I should be able to relieve” (88). Using statements like “disappointing” and “murderous ache I should be able to relieve”, Sanders shows that he felt guilty for not being able to help his alcoholic father, even though he feels as though he should be able to. This guilt destroys him as a person as his focus is in trying to help his father. Throughout his life with his father, he would always question what he was doing wrong that allowed his father to continue drinking. The author even states, “...if only I was perfect” (88). This continues to prove the idea of how guilty Sanders felt for not being able to help his father. With everything he tried, nothing clearly worked as his father died while still being an alcoholic. However, he isn’t the only person that suffers from this guilt. I always felt the need to try and convince my father to quit smoking, especially since I am the eldest child. I tried everything in me to get him to stop, but I now realize that a habit, like smoking, is difficult to

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