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Literature Essay Final


Submitted By karencaston
Words 1062
Pages 5
April 29, 2012

Karen Caston
American Literature
Katie DeLaney
Synthesis Essay (Final)


Inebriation and addiction are often noted in the writing and poetry of some postmodern authors. In the poetry of Allen Ginsberg “Howl”, short stories by James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues” and Raymond Carver, “Cathedral” talk of alcohol and addiction exist. Reading the poetry of Ginsberg and the story by Baldwin, obvious references are made to inebriation and addiction, more subtle notations are described in the work by Carver. In the story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver the narrator drinks too much and seems unable to effectively communicate with his wife. Drinking and smoking marijuana goes on throughout the story telling. The short story “Cathedral” portrays individuals isolated from each other for various reasons. It appears that the maladies suffered by the narrator and wife provide reasons for inebriation and addiction. For example,” So when the time rolled around, my wife went to the depot to pick him up. With nothing to do but wait—sure, I blamed him for that—I was having a drink and watching the TV when I heard the car pull into the drive. I got up from the sofa with my drink and went to the window to have a look”. The narrator begins to drink while waiting for his wife and the blind man to arrive from the train station. In this quote the first indication of drinking start. As the story progresses drinking and marijuana smoking occurs throughout. Drinking occurs after the characters are introduced and engage in brief conversation; the narrator describes the scene “Let me get you a drink. What’s your pleasure? We have a little bit of everything. It’s one of our pastimes”. This shows there is sign that the couple is more than social drinkers because it mentions that drinking is one of their pastimes. Also, the fact that the writer shares “they have a little bit of everything” shows they drink a variety. Marijuana is also used in the story, we know this because the narrator describes the smoking by writing “I got our drinks and sat down on the sofa with him. Then I rolled us two fat numbers. I lit one and passed it. I brought it to his fingers. He took it and inhaled”. The act of drinking, smoking cigarettes and marijuana continues through to the end of the story. It seems the maladies suffered by the narrator and wife is reasons for their inebriation and addition. When compared to “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin the inebriation and addiction seem more subtle. The first indication of addiction starts where the narrator (Sonny’s younger brother) learns from a newspaper the Sonny was arrested for dealing heroin. The text supports this evidence by the narrator stating “I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it and I couldn’t believe it, and I read it again. Then perhaps I just stared at it, at the newsprint spelling out his name, spelling out the story, I stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, in the faces and bodies of the people, and in ;my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside”. Though the support text does not make it clear he was busted for drugs, as the story progresses this fact will be apparent. The narrator shares the latter so the reader can connect to how he feels about the knowledge of his brothers troubles. Additionally, the opening provides a strong feeling of helplessness connected to a sense of being trapped. This is important to the rest of the story as it sets the stage and introduces the third character; a friend of
Describing the friend and the setting, the narrator writes “The courtyard was almost deserted by the time I got downstairs, I saw this boy standing in the shadow of a doorway, looking just like Sonny. I almost called his name. Then I saw that it wasn’t Sonny, but somebody we used to know, a boy from around our block. He’d been Sonny’s friend. He’d never been mine, having been too young for me, and, anyway, I’d never liked him. And now, even though he was a grown-up man, he still hung around our block. Still spent hours on the street corners, was high and raggy”. Introducing and describing the character as Sonny’s friend gives a sense the Sonny and his friend used drugs together. The writer formed a connection to addiction when stated how the friend as a grown man stilling hanging around the block spending hours on the corners high. More than anything suffering seems to be one of the most important aspects of “Sonny’s Blues”, Sonny uses drugs to numb his feelings. There is a sense that Sonny feels the hardship in his life and his brother (the narrator) is more accepting of life but keeps his feelings locked in. “Sonny’s Blues” is very similar to a poem by Ginsburg called “Howl” with the talk of inebriation and addiction. Addiction is a very prominent theme in this three part poem. “Howell” written by Ginsberg gives a vivid and clear image of inebriation and addiction. Ginsberg describes the subject of the poem as “the best mind” who is people in society that have been destroyed by madness and cannot live outside the world they find themselves in. The text has importance to some of the reasons the drinking and drugging takes place. Written during a time of blatant discrimination, poverty and depravity in New York, drug use was rampant. Using the phase “the best minds” to illuminate his subject matter Ginsberg is fully quoted by stating “I saw the best minds of my generations destroyed by madness, starving/hysterical naked. /dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry/fix”. The poet is describing the world and the environment around him during this time period. The use of drugs and alcohol was used as a way to forget about the pain, anger and insanity taking place there. Inebriation and addiction are often noted in the writing and poetry of some postmodern authors. Through the writing of poetry and short stories authors, Baldwin, Carver and Ginsberg brought light to addiction. These authors spoke the truth about current events.

Works Cited

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