Go Ask Alice
Feb. 27—End of Diary One
Alice is under strict surveillance at home and can't stand it. She despises her psychiatrist and continues to do drugs without her family's knowledge. (The remaining diary entries are recorded on scraps of paper without dates.) She hitchhikes to Denver while she is a mile high. With little money, she shares a place with a few fellow drug users. They go to Oregon, but Alice gets sick, sleeps in a park, and loses her friends. In a church, a janitor directs her to a mission similar to the Salvation Army.
(Later) At the mission and a health clinic, Alice is cleaned up and given vitamins but refuses to let the authorities contact her parents because it will put an end to her drug use. She meets a girl, Doris, who lets her stay at her apartment. Alice takes to Coos Bay immediately and continues doing drugs. She is surprised to learn that Doris only 14. Still, their impoverished living conditions and the constant rain have made them both sick again, and Alice yearns for both food and drugs (she is far below her recommended requirements from the Food and Drug Administration, it would seem). Her withdrawal from drugs makes her more ill and lonely, and Doris's life story about sexual abuse from her stepfather and foster family siblings only depresses her more. She and Doris hitchhike to Southern California with a truck driver who hurts Doris and makes her cry. They manage to hitch a ride with some other drug users.
At a rally in California, Alice takes more drugs and finds life beautiful once more. Confused, Alice reports that she is now a "Priestess of Satan" in some kind of cult. She finds that she's now attracted to females but feels guilty and ashamed of it. She has been reduced to giving someone named "Big Ass" oral sex for drugs. She meets a pregnant girl who says her baby will belong to everybody. Alice wonders if she, too, is pregnant, as she's stopped taking the pill because she never knows what day it is. She loathes her fellow drug users and their lazy, irresponsible lifestyle. She reads in the newspaper about two boys who died of overdosing, and she wishes she were one of them.
(Another day) Alice talks with a priest about why kids run away from home, and he calls her parents. She talks to her mother and father on the phone at once, and to her surprise, they tell her they still love her and want her to come home. She feels better knowing this and commits herself to pleasing them. In the city, Alice waits for her parents to arrive. She meets several other runaways and talks to them about why they left home. Her theory is that hairstyle is a major cause of contention between parents and children, and her idea is validated by others. Given her experience, she imagines she may go into child guidance or psychology some day to help out others, and she vows to quit drug use. She reviews her recent diary entries and can't believe how depraved she was. She lays out two choices: she can commit suicide, or she can help others. She chooses the latter.
Alice finally gains enough sheer experience and converses more honestly with other runaways in this section to understand better what has caused her decline. Family is the greatest cause: everyone she talks to was in some way abused by their parents, with young Doris at the extreme. The pregnant girl's irresponsible care of her unborn child disturbs Alice, who always identifies with the other innocents she meets. The difficulty in defining oneself in relation to one's parents underscores her investigations—a boy whose parents denied his wishes to be an artist ran away to "preserve his identity." Others echo this desire, yet their identity is a mystery to them, as well. Alice's conversation with the other Alice (whom we must assume the editors believed symbolized the narrator enough to name her after) exemplifies this confusion, since the other Alice "didn't know whether she was running away from something or running to something, but deep in her heart she wanted to go home." Her rebellion consumes her natural desire to become her own person and blurs her picture of herself—all that is clear is that, as a child, she still needs her family. Even when Alice commits herself to returning to her family and to pleasing them, it is clear that this is not the best solution, either, for pleasing only them is part of what made her run away in the first place. Alice diagnoses her real problem when, happy about her father's love for her, she wishes she could only love herself. If she could do this, she would care less about rebelling from or satisfying her parents and instead focus on her own, separate desires. This type of individuality, unfettered by external forces yet still responsible, defines an adulthood that Alice has still not yet attained.
Yet helping Alice on her way to adulthood is religion, which constantly intervenes and helps Alice when family cannot, in the form of the church and the priest. She develops a notion of Christian redemption on her own when it occurs to her that her suffering may have been worthwhile, as she can now better understand and be more tolerant of humanity. Her decision to help others has deep religious undertones, and she even concludes the first diary with, "I love God." If Go Ask Alice is a fictionalized work, as some people believe, then her salvation in April, the time of Easter, seems especially significant. Yet the choice she sets out before her redemption—to commit suicide or help others—reminds us that the dark side is always close to Alice. Even while on drugs at the rally, she has dual feelings that life is "so goddamned beautiful" and also full of "Goddamned stupid people." Her brief mention of the desire to overdose will be important in later sections of the diary, as we have to wonder if this was just a casual notice or a true warning sign of suicidal impulses.
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!