Under the Influence Analysis

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Throughout the decades, alcoholism has become a common issue that has become the cause of the deterioration of many relationships. In Scott Russell Sanders essay, “Under the Influence”, it is demonstrated how his relationship with his father continuously weakens due to the effects of alcohol.

In order to create a deeper understanding of the impacts that alcohol consumption has on families, Sanders uses information from sources such as medical journals with actual statistics that increase the relevance of the story. In Sanders’ essay, “Under the Influence”, the author uses references such as dictionaries, medical journals, and the Bible to strengthen the influence of his story by adding a realistic tone for readers to better connect to the effects of alcohol.

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In Sanders’ essay, “Under the Influence” the author uses information from a dictionary to add a realistic tone to the story in order to allow readers to form a deeper connection to the impacts of alcoholism. To be able to successfully portray a message, it is important that an author creates a relevance to real life. Through the line, “In a matter of minutes, the contents of a bottle could transform a brave man into a coward, a buddy into a bully, a gifted athlete and skilled carpenter and shrewd business man into a bumbler. No dictionary of synonyms for drunk would soften the anguish of watching our prince turn into a frog,”(Sanders, 142) Sanders is able to use synonyms from actual context to demonstrate the effects of alcohol.

Readers are able to deeper connect with the story as they visualize the differences in people that alcohol creates. Through this quote, Sanders demonstrates how drinking can completely change one’s mentality and alter their emotions as they begin to behave differently from becoming someone who is to be loved and cherished to someone that is hated. Sanders’ explains how his father begins to transition from someone he admires and respects to a person that he does not understand nor recognize.

Alcohol consumption has the power to completely alter one’s thinking. By incorporating external sources, the ideas used within the essay are placed on a larger scale, as readers are able to develop connections with the story on a realistic level. Throughout the essay, Sanders also discusses how the synonyms that are often used towards describing drunks create a form of jest. Comedic names for alcoholics are used in the sentence, “Consider a few of our synonyms for drunk: tipsy, tight, pickled, soused, and plowed; stoned and stewed…loaded or looped, boozy, woozy, fuddled, or smashed; crocked and shit-faced, corked and pissed, snockered and sloshed,”(Sanders, 141).

The humor is ironic as alcoholism is not a joking matter. The irony used creates a sense of remorse towards readers. Through the use of dictionaries and synonyms, Sanders is able to develop a realistic connection between the story and the reader.

Secondly, in Sanders’ essay, “Under the Influence” the author uses evidence from medical journals to strengthen his arguments and create a realistic sense of story for readers to better connect to the effects of alcoholism. Among the several references that the author uses within the essay, medical journals reflect a serious quality, as they are facts from trusted sources. Sanders’ demonstrates the significance of incorporating medical references within his story by stating, “So it is with the fevers of shame. You swallow the bitter quinine of knowledge, and you learn to feel pity and compassion toward the drinker,”(Sanders, 143).

In this statement, the author makes reference to a drug referred to as quinine, which occurs naturally in the bark of cinchona trees. It is an anti-inflammatory drug that the author uses to create an analogy between the bitter taste of medicine and the harsh feeling of a child understanding that their father is an alcoholic.

By constantly referring to facts from medical sources, readers are given a better understanding of the existence of alcoholism in the world today. Similarly, Sanders represents the seriousness of the effects of alcohol through medical statistics when he states, “I knew the odds of my becoming an alcoholic were four times higher than for the sons of nonalcoholic fathers. So I slipped warily,” (Sanders, 150).

This affirmation of a child of a drunk being more likely to become an alcoholic through a medical source allows Sanders to broaden the span of his story by using facts that not only affect him personally, but overall all children that are in a similar situation. His experiences are easy to relate to for many readers because he uses intelligent sources that strengthen his arguments. Ultimately, Sanders is able to better connect with readers from his story through the use of facts and references from medical journals.

Furthermore, Sanders develops a realistic tone and deeper connection with the audience of his essay through the use of references from the Bible. The author continuously broadens the theme of his essay by using different sources. When he mentions, “Over the grinning mask of Dionysus, the leering mask of Bacchus, these children cannot help seeing the bloated features of their own parents,” (Sanders, 142).

Sanders refers to Dionysus who is known as the Greek god of wine and intoxication as he explains how the laughter of others towards jokes made about drunks are not sources of laughter for the children of alcoholics. He illuminates alcoholism from a child’s perspective by using symbolism through Greek gods who are mentioned in the Bible. This Bible reference broadens his essay, as many readers are able to relate to his story and better understand Sanders’ message. Likewise, Sanders also makes a biblical reference when he says, “They refuse to believe in vino veritas, having seen their befuddled parents skid away from truth toward folly and oblivion,” (Sanders, 142).

Vino veritas translates to in wine is truth. It however is ironic to the children of alcoholics because they are forced to witness their parents transform from loving, admirable individuals to people that they hate. The function of including sources such as the Bible within Sanders’ story is to explain his situation in a new context. Overall, the use of biblical references within the essay promotes the effect of allowing readers to connect with Sanders’ story on a realistic level.

In conclusion, Russell Scott Sanders uses sources such as dictionaries, medical encyclopedias, and the bible to relay his story about alcoholism and portray a realistic effect whilst developing a deeper connection with his readers. Alcohol is a compelling substance once intoxicated that has the power to alter personalities impacting relationships in negative ways.


  1. Sanders, R. S. (1989, November). Under the Influence. Harper’s Magazine, 1, 140-150.

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