7 May 2007
Child vs. Man in “Under the Influence”`
In “Under the Influence,” Scott Russell Sanders delves into his memories in order
to try to understand his father’s addiction; through this analysis, he might come to
understand his own character and his own addictions.
Sanders uses raw, blunt language
to recount his memories, yet, conversely, he also packs the text with metaphors,
symbolism, and comparisons, which serve almost as euphemisms.
This contrast arises
from his speaking as both an adult and as a child.
As an adult, looking back on his
childhood, Sanders is able to speak candidly because he has been educated about his
However, Sanders experienced his father’s alcoholism as a child, and
must communicate with that part of himself, because he can never leave it behind: “Yet
for all this grown-up knowledge, I am still ten years old” (59).
Children do not interpret things that they hear the way adults do.
It is partly
because of their imaginations, and partly because they lack the required knowledge.
Many times they pick up random bits of conversation with unfamiliar words and phrases,
and are left to figure out for themselves what exactly is meant.
Sanders was no
His inclusion of Bible stories he heard as a child is important, because they
explain more clearly what the child Sanders thought, and why, and also what situation he
and his family were in.
In his neighborhood, the only sources of help were the church
and the Bible.
The Bible, however, was “hard on drunkards” (62) and the church was no