Alcohol abuse is perhaps one of the biggest problems in the United States today. It is not only a personal problem that dramatically affects an individual’s lives, but moreover those that surround such a life. In the essay “Under the Influence” by Scott Russel Sanders, he expresses his emotions through a poem. “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke. “The whiskey on his breath could make a small boy dizzy; but hung on like death; such waltzing was not easy. ” (258). This poem is one of many effective devices that Sanders uses to clearly and decisively convey to us the readers of how profound the effects of alcoholism are.
Sanders reflects back to his childhood and explains his complex relationship with his alcoholic father and the after effects now that he is a grown up. One of Sanders memorable comments in his essay is when he states his father “ He would not hide the green bottles in his tool box, would not sneak off to the barn with a lump under his coat, would not fall asleep in the daylight, would not roar and fume, would not drink himself to death, if only I were perfect” (255).
What a strong point of view in a little boys mind; to think, “if only I were perfect” his father would not drink! Sanders tell us how our children experience the burden, of the effects of alcoholism. Sanders said, “Father ‘s drinking became the family secret. While growing up, we children never breathed a word of it beyond the four walls of our house” “I asked my mother if she ever spoke of his drinking to friends. ‘No, no, never’ she replied hastily. ‘I couldn’t bear for anyone to know’”(257).
It must be very difficult for a family and, especially for a child not to be able to communicate their suffering to others. Sanders as a chills wasn’t able to be honest; he was force to live a lie. Another comment from Sanders was, “ I hated also the Gallo brothers, Ernest and Julio, whose jovial faces shone from the labels of their wine…” ”I meant to go out there and tell Ernest and Julio what they were doing to my father, and then, if they showed no mercy.
I would kill them” (259) Sanders contrast the jovial faces on the wine label to the reality of his father’s fuming character. Sanders closes with, “I still do- once a week, perhaps, a glass of wine, a can of beer, nothing stronger, nothing more. I listen for the turning of a key in my brain” (266). Sanders is comparing his drinking to his father’s drinking as an alcoholic. Unlike his father, Sanders is not an alcoholic and has the ability to control his drinking.
Sanders, Scott Russel.
“Under the Influence”
Fifty Great Essays
Editor. Robert Diyanni.
Pages 258, 255, 257, 259