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How does Alice's penchant for writing fit alongside her drug use?
By making her diary into a personified "Diary," Alice finds a friend who understands her better than anyone else. As the group therapy leader at the mental hospital puts it, when thoughts are kept inside they are "magnified" and "distorted," and Alice can re-align these thoughts a bit when they are on paper. Her capacity to transform her feelings into poetic language is, at times, her only salvation, and "Diary" travels with her wherever she goes, knowing Alice at her most intimate times, while never judging her. But this is not enough; Alice still craves human companionship and, unable to find it in her family or friends, journeys into the world of drugs, where she often feels spiritually connected to others while under the influence and, often, while not. Interestingly, in some ways, drugs function for her as writing once did. Just as literature blurred the line between fact and fantasy, so do drugs create an escapist environment where harsh realities are softened. Alice even stares at her right hand for hours while tripping on acid one time—a hand that once scrolled her observations into the diary. Alice concedes several times that she cannot do her drug trips justice by translating them into words (although she is quite efficient at times), but this is the real problem—drugs are incompatible with communication and do not provide the true warmth and openness she needs. Alice learns to apply her skills at self-communication to others—teen runaways, her mother and father, her siblings, Joel—and retires her diary, knowing human communication is far more necessary in life.
Discuss Alice's clash with the establishment and her experience with the counterculture.
At the start of her diary, Alice is settled in, if not quite content with, her middle-class bourgeois life. She worries about her boys, popularity, and her studies as most adolescents her age do. She is excited for her father's new university job and imagines herself like her mother one day, married to a stable young man like Roger. But her experience with drugs opens her eyes, and soon she is aware of all the flaws of the establishment. Her time spent with the counterculture further divides her from her upbringing, but time after time, she longs to return. The people she meets on the other side range from the boring (the teens who lounge in her and Chris's Berkeley shop) to the irresponsible (the pregnant woman Alice meets who claims her baby will belong to everybody) to the cruel (the rapist Sheila). All the young girls, it seems, have been victimized by others and have fled to the counter-cultural lifestyle with no other option; at any rate, it is an unhappy place that does little to salve the wounds that the establishment has inflicted upon the world. Perhaps Alice's rather apolitical stance has something to do with; unlike the many protesters and activists of the 1960s, Alice falls into the camp of hedonists who tune out of their surroundings. Although Alice finds that her return to middle-class life is laced with as many cruelties, she embraces its values when she sees someone like Joel, given every excuse to turn to a life of drugs, strive even harder to make a positive difference in the world.
On what religious themes does Go Ask Alice focus?
When Alice meets Beth, she laments that she does not know as much about her own religion as her Jewish friend does. While her religious ignorance is undoubtedly a lifestyle choice by herself and her parents, it is a subtle clue to Alice's problems: her immediate family is unable to understand her, as is her larger religious one. When she initially experiments with drugs, Alice seems to awaken a more spiritual side, reveling in the otherworldly quality of LSD. But it is true religion that saves her when she hits rock bottom; she is directed to a mission from a church in Oregon, and a priest later helps her reunite with her parents. The idea of Christian redemption plants itself in her mind when she wonders if her suffering may have had a purpose, since she now better understands humanity. Still, she remains conflicted as to life and religion's place in it; even while on drugs at the rally, she writes that life is "so goddamned beautiful" and also full of "goddamned stupid people." These are conventional curses rarely used by Alice, and their inclusion here makes it clear that Alice finds the world both spiritually enlightened and debased. She concludes the first diary with the words "I love God"; whether or not Go Ask Alice is a non-fiction work, her salvation in April, around Easter time, seems symbolically important, as is her continual love for the healing powers of Christmas. When Alice finally comes clean, she sees love and spirituality in everything from her family to the birth of a litter of kittens. She commits herself to a life of helping others, completing her salvation and making her suffering worthwhile.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Go Ask Alice!