Go Ask Alice
May 22—July 3
(May 22–29) Alice meets a freshman, Joel, at the university library. He walks her over to her father's office, and Alice tells him the truth about her age. He asks when she'll be studying next, and she says she studies all the time. Her father looks up Joel's record and tells Alice that he is an accelerated student who works every day at school as a janitor, his father is dead, and his mother is a factory worker. He and Alice get to know each other better, and her father invites him over to dinner. The dinner is a success, and everyone is interested in Joel. Her father tells the family that he's going to try and get Joel a scholarship. Meanwhile, no one hassles—or talks to—Alice at school, which is all right by her.
(June 1–9) Alice's grandmother cries when her house is sold. Alice feels bad for her but spends most of her time fantasizing about marrying Joel. While filling in on a babysitting assignment for Jan, Jan shows up, high and out of control. Alice calls Jan's parents, who take her away. Alice fears payback at school, though her parents assure her that she did the right thing. At school, Jan yells at Alice and threatens her. She spreads rumors about her at school, and Alice dives deeper into her studies, unable to open up fully to Joel. Her grandmother gets sick. Jan threatens to push drugs on Alice's sister. While walking home, a carload of kids harass Alice, saying they'll plant drugs in her father's car. Alice decides to ignore them, hoping they'll lose interest.
(June 10–12) Someone stashes a burning joint in Alice's locker, and when the principal asks who she thinks did it, she doesn't accuse anyone, mostly out of fear. Her friendship with Joel is losing its passion. Another girl pressures Alice into doing drugs while both girls' mothers chat a few feet away in the supermarket. (June 16–19) Alice's grandmother dies, and Alice agonizes over the thought over worms and maggots eating the body. After the funeral, Joel has a long talk with her about death that makes her feel better. They kiss before he goes.
(June 20–24) Alice feels left out of the social scene. The drug-using kids blame Alice for a raid at a party. A boy assaults her on the street in daylight and twists her arm and kisses her, threatening to rape her. Alice only tells her family that she is being "pushed" again by some kids and warns them to be careful. She opens up to Joel about some of her past, and he is kind and supportive. They exchange family heirlooms.
(June 25–July 3) At a "School Is Out" party, Alice reflects that not only is the high school divided between drug users and "squares," but there are further pockets, or worlds, even within those segments, such as rich and poor drug users. The squares are friendlier to her, giving her hope. She looks forward to summer school. Now that school is out, the drug kids aren't hassling her anymore. She thinks more about her grandmother's body underground and wonders if she is morbid because of her past experiences. She gets a babysitting job.
Alice returns strongly to her family's middle-class values in this section. She prizes her education and studies hard, and her growing love for Joel reaches puppy-dog levels not seen since the days of Roger. While she remains insecure, wondering if Joel likes her in return, and while she fantasizes about marriage like a tittering schoolgirl, her relationship with him is the deepest and most reciprocal of all her flings. As she learned from her time in Oregon, where kids told her about their lives, Alice sees that one can mature from experiences unrelated to drugs. Joel's home life is not strictly unhappy, as the drug-users' situations invariably were, but his difficult economic background and father's death have made him wise and spiritual, as Alice puts it. His ability to rise above his circumstances lends credence to Alice's previous idea about her own experiences; perhaps suffering is worthwhile if it makes one more humane.
Yet much suffering is brutal and unnecessary, as the drug-users repeated attempts to hook Alice again demonstrate. As before, the social world is the true culprit, not merely tempting Alice but forcing her into submission. Still, she manages to extract some wisdom from her alienation. She refines her previous division between squares and stoners and, perhaps because of Joel's influence, identifies further classifications, such as wealth, that are equally important. Nevertheless, Alice cannot fully reveal to her family the constant outside pressure to do drugs. Her guilt over having caused her family so much pain already, while a part of her reformation, makes her at times too timid to ask for help.
Alice's grandmother's death recalls her nightmares over maggots and worms eating the dead body. Her anxiety is reminiscent of Holden Caulfield's morbid obsession in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. In the novel, Holden is fascinated by the Egyptian process of mummification, and, conversely, he fears what happens to dead bodies after they have been buried. For Holden, the preservation of mummification is a safeguard against the corruption of old age; regular burial and its attendant deformations of the body is a symbol of loss of innocence as one ages. Alice's fears center more on the loneliness of the individual mind. No one knows what happens to a body underground, hidden from sight. Alice's repeated pledges of devotion to her diary, the one "person" that understands her, clarify her morbidity: no one knows what is happening in her mind, hidden from sight. What's worse, she is afraid to unearth her mind to others, either out of guilt or fear of misunderstanding or rejection. Fortunately, she gains trust when she reveals to Joel parts of her past and he accepts her, not despite her experience, but as something that has made Alice who she is—a sensitive, observant girl who has known great sorrow and is trying to get better.
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