Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 8 : Lazarus Go Home | Summary



Lee pulls himself together, just barely, to meet his acquaintance Miguel. He offers Miguel "one snort" of heroin. Miguel appears to have recently gotten clean. Lee finds Miguel tiresome, his body grotesque. Lee puts the heroin away and pushes Miguel out the door when his own craving overpowers him.

Lee goes to see another acquaintance, NG Joe, who became an addict when he contracted a disease called Bang-utot in Hawaii. The disease causes its victims to believe "their penis will enter the body and kill them." They fear getting an erection because it may attack them. NG Joe uses heroin to prevent erection, so his habit increases. Lee goes to a drugstore and watches kids play in the street while he waits for the store to open.

An Inspector talks to Your Reporter about providing treatment for the bends. The Inspector applies ointment to treat his pubic lice during the interview. The Reporter shakes his hand at the end of the exchange and disposes of his gloves after, expecting his expense account to cover them.


In "Lazarus Go Home" the narrator again refers to himself in the third person, this time using the name Lee. His interaction with Miguel, the recovered fellow-addict, causes the narrator to feel divorced from himself again. The title of the story references the biblical story of Lazarus, who dies of leprosy and is brought back to life by Jesus Christ. Lee sends Miguel home, unable to cope with witnessing Miguel's recovery, as impermanent as it may be. Lee isn't ready to deal with the possibility of coming back from the dead.

NG Joe's malady expresses the sexual anxiety and impotence associated with addiction. For NG Joe the impotence is a positive feature, not a disadvantage, of his addiction, and he actively pursues heroin addiction to prevent his disease. Bang-utot is similar to a real condition called koro, experienced in Asian countries. Sufferers of koro believe their penises are shrinking, and this shrinkage is a harbinger of death.

The Inspector, as a law enforcement figure, reveals the hypocrisy of authorities in relation to sexual activities. This officer would not hesitate to arrest a prostitute or a man caught engaging in gay sex. In the meantime he has engaged in some kind of illicit activity that has left him with pubic lice, so he is not exactly adhering to the mandates of conventional morality. His openness about treating his condition in front of a reporter reveals his confidence in his reputation and position, and he is right. His power allows him to expect a handshake, even with a hand covered with ointment and parasites. The Reporter coyly expresses his "unspeakable pleasure" for the interview and for his expense account, which provides him with an apparently unlimited supply of gloves.

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