In “Under the Influence”, Scott Russell Sanders recreates his memories and feelings of loss, anger, and fear from his childhood inflicted by his alcoholic father. Sanders shares that growing up with a drunken parent can have a serious long-term effect on a child. He educes awareness and empathy for others by using similes, imaginary, and allusions to recreate battles against his father. Sanders writes to support other victims and to let them know they are not alone.
Sanders opens his essay with a very direct fact: “My father drank”. Although this sentence is simple, his story is not. In the next sentence, he uses a simile to describe his father’s transformation with every alcoholic binge. Sanders wrote that his father “ drank as a gut punched boxer gasps for breath, as a starving dog gobbles food compulsively, secretly, in pain and trembling”. He uses this simile to show that his father was not a social drinker, but a man who would drink just to drink. Sanders then uses imaginary to create a typical scene in his house while his father is drunk. He describes his father drinking from bottles of wine, cylinders of whisky, and cans of beer, then his father passes out in his recliner. Later, Sanders’s mother awakens him, which is when the fighting begins. This imaginary creates a sense of sadness and empathy for Sanders, for this was a daily issue for him. Sanders’s purpose for writing “Under the Influence” was to show that people do not act like themselves when consumed by alcohol. When alcohol takes over a person, they are to be feared.
While continuing the story, Sanders begins to use different terms for the word “drunk”, such as tipsy, pickled, plowed, juiced, and looped. He points out that some of these words are meant to be funny, but the irony is that this is not a funny matter. The irony creates a sense of remorse for the people who suffer the way Sanders suffered growing up. As an adult, Sanders is able to accept the fact that his father suffered from a disease; however, this was not always easy for him to grasp.