The Use of a Various Array of Literary Devices in Under the Influence


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Throughout his essay “Under the Influence” the author, Scott Sanders, employs various literary devices and properly manipulates his syntax to achieve the desired sympathetic tone.

While there are many literary devices in “Under the Influence,” among the most common devices used to help convey his message are similes and metaphors. Sanders’ first metaphor starts on the first line with: “My father drank. He drank as a gut-punched boxer gasps for breath, as a starving dog gobbles food…” (30). While this example of a metaphor is actually two metaphors used in conjunction, from the first two lines of the passage, the author wastes no time in establishing his tone of sympathy, through example of a “starving dog” and a “gut-punched boxer gasps for breath.” Both of these comparisons evoke a feeling of pain in suffering within the reader and help convey the same feeling in regards to the alcoholic father. Sanders also uses various personifications throughout the passage. As Sanders describes when he was young: “Then we curl in our fearful sheets, listening” (31). Obviously, sheets do not express the emotion of fear, but through this personification, Sanders expresses that his brother, sister, mother and himself were all fearful and always cautious of their father around bedtime. This helps to evoke a tone of inherent and constant fear of their father, while at the same time sympathetic.

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Sanders’ syntax is also very crucial within this passage in reference to how well he conveys his desired tone. Sanders is very good with the words that he chooses to express fear, pain and sympathy towards his father. Even when Sanders is describing his father drinking, he is descriptive: “His Adam’s apple bobs, the liquid gurgles, he wipes the sandy-haired back of a hand over his lips, and then his bloodshot gaze bumping into me…” (30). Sanders tells later in the passage that he was 42 when he wrote this, but is able to tell so vividly what he remembered seeing when he encountered his father drinking. He spoke of the kind of liquor he had, what it sounded like when he drank, wiping his “sandy-haired back of a hand over his lips” and the look he gave his son after he did it. This goes to show that Sanders’ father’s alcoholism had a profound effect on everyone around him, including himself. To convey the tone of fear and sympathy, however, Sanders commonly uses words such as: “compulsively,” “secretively,” “grief,” “suffering” and “illness” to describe his father’s hurtful addiction to alcohol.

By using various literary devices such as metaphors, similes and personifications, as well as a strong, descriptive syntax, Sanders creates a tone of fear and sympathy in regards to his father’s alcoholism.

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