Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

The Fury

The Fury is the name James uses to refer to his anger, his addiction, and his self-destructive impulses. Throughout most of the book, the Fury rules James. It compels him to lash out or avoid others, to consume massive amounts of drugs and alcohol, and to destroy all that is good in his life. Early on in James’s stay at the clinic, the Fury is uncontrollable and nearly insatiable: he replaces his urge to consume drugs and alcohol with food, and he has a violent run-in with a fellow patient. As time goes on, James becomes more aware that he must beat the Fury, and that if he does not learn to control it, it will kill him. One way James controls it is through his relationship with Lilly. He replaces his addiction for drugs and alcohol with love for her.

When James’s parents come to the clinic to take part in the Family Program against his wishes, the Fury rises in James. But he realizes that this is more selfish anger than anything, because after their arrival, James and his parents make remarkable progress. Although his parents leave the program early and the Fury rises, it does not manifest itself in any compulsive behavior or violent action. The truly telling point, though, is at the end of the book, when James orders a pint glass of whiskey to test the Fury, to see if he’s strong enough to fight his addictive urges. Even though the power of the Fury is almost unbearably strong as he stares at and smells the whiskey, James is able to overcome it and have the bartender pour the glass down the drain.