Analysis

Alice matures deeply in this section, expanding her innate sensitivity to outward empathy. Her increasing desire to become a guidance counselor shows up not only in her ability to connect with Tim, but also in her changing attitude toward Alexandria and her developing sensitivity to the pain of others around her, such as her grandmother. Her episode with the unsympathetic principal cements her feelings about her future profession, yet her goal is not one only of rebellion (which her resentment for the principal's tactics does constitute) but is finally a goal of her own, natural desire. She has finally found an identity that will someday suit her, and while she is still in pain at times, she is already getting better at communicating with others and enjoying a life of sobriety. She and her parents treat each other with respect and concern, and her description of the sensory pleasures of the soft, newborn kittens is reminiscent of her sweeping accounts of acid-tripping—except that she now embraces consciousness.

Alice's social difficulty in school highlights the classification within the adolescent world that is based increasingly on drug use. Just as entire social groups are organized by a drug/straight binary, there are, presumably, further divisions within each group (which drugs are used, how often one uses, whether one sells, etc.). School remains an unfriendly place, from the principal to the drug-planting students, and Alice's feeling of total helplessness is a reminder that she can easily fold at any moment. The love of family and individual will can only go so far in a corrupt society bent on harming others.

More frightening to Alice is her true helplessness in her flashback episode and the ensuing fear that she may lose her mind completely. This anxiety seems to mix with her concern over her grandfather's body being eaten by worms underground. Underground, no one knows what happens to you or can stop it, just as she feels that no one, including herself, knows what is happening in her head or can heal it.