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Confessions Of An Opium Eater-Part One

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ENG 208

Bonello 1 Alexandra Bonello Professor Boyagoda ENG208 April 4, 2012 The Man Who Lost Sight Of Himself In The Mirror Throughout Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater” he continuously reminds the reader of his current state throughout his adventures. While doing this he opens up to us something that he himself doesn’t want to reveal, the truth. Trying to persuade us in his pleading he ultimately demonstrates his desires of acceptance and vulnerability. By doing so he undermines his authority of trying to convince the reader the pleasures of opium amongst modern day Englishmen. De Quincey claims that the reason of his opium use isn’t merely to cause pleasure instead, he says, this is a misrepresentation of his case. Turning to the use of drugs to coat the pain life’s inevitable troubles have presented him with. This then becomes both his most powerful and his most harmful tool. While encouraging the reader that through the use of opium it has finally vanquished his misery but ultimately revealing the opposite. Thomas De Quincey’s sufferings are unleashed throughout his story telling by his constant struggle to sway the reader from his pain, he focuses on his schooling as a focal point to his sanity, pushing the reader to overlook the truth of why he turned to the use of opium eating. Thomas De Quincey’s life was those of a normal English boy born in 1785 he grew up with a mother, a father, and two younger sisters. But by the age of seven his father and sisters have tragically died leaving him to grow up alone. Although he briefly mentions his father in his confessions it is obvious to anyone that a young boy would feel abandoned and Bonello 2 frightful. Perhaps it was this turn of events that lead De Quincey to experience his intolerable pains. “It was not for the purpose of creating pleasure, but of mitigating pain in the severest degree, that I first began to use opium as an article of daily diet” (De Quincey p. 6). As most modern day people become addicted to drugs due to the prescription that doctors give them to cope with pain, the druggist had done the same for De Quincey. Primarily he took the medication for the pain but instead became highly addicted to the pleasures of the drug that suddenly overpowered him. The loss of his family was the first time in De Quincey’s life that he had lost all control and it had left him with a pain of utter despair. It may also be the first reason why De Quincey had turned to the use of opium. The story begins with his so clever introduction to us as the “Courteous reader” (De Quincey p. 1). With his effort to try to subdue the reader from passing judgment about De Quincey’s experiment with the use of drugs he unveils his desperation for someone to listen to his story. Opium, extracted from poppy seeds, a cheap drug normally only taken by the poor and not a drug that a scholarly Englishman, that Thomas De Quincey continuously calls himself, would adhere too. There were many other Englishmen that enjoyed the pleasures opium eating had brought for them or at least that’s what De Quincey had lead himself to believe. He even mentions the use of opium eating for cotton- manufactures that their work demanded it in preparation for the workload in the late evenings. Three respectable London druggists assured him that the number of opium-eaters at this time was immense (De Quincey p.3). Opium was the only well known solution for those suffering from pain. Hunger, suicide, physical pain, and emotional pain where the most common symptoms for why people turned to the use of the drug. Each one of these pains was a sign of weakness that could not be contained. No one could simply conjure up Bonello 3 some sort of way to take away the anguish away. De Quincey yearned for something to take all of his pains away and allow himself to live a happy life. He wanted to regain command of himself in order to pursue a life on his own to seek his own destiny. Opium gave him that reins to the horse so he could ride on to his utopia but he never seemed to get off the horse he simply just kept riding on. As if a young boy running away from his problems De Quincey shows the reader how unhappy he with his lack of control in his affairs by turning to the use of drugs as an escape into his paradise. His guardians that De Quincey runs away from in the beginning of his novel are described as blockheaded and ignorant (De Quincey p.6). Although De Quincey flees his schooling he doesn’t fail to repeatily mention his scholarly status as a student. “At thirteen, I wrote Greek with ease; and at fifteen my command of that language was so great, that I not only composed Greek verses in lyric metres, but could converse in Greek fluently, and without embarrassment-an accomplishment which I have not since met with any scholar of my times, and which in my case, was owing to the practice of daily reading off the newspapers into the best Greek I could furnish explore…” (De Quincey p.6) He never fails to tell the reader about his status
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