William S. Burroughs's Junkie And Naked Lunch

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This paper will analyze William S. Burroughs’ novels and their portrayal of drug culture. The two novels mainly analyzed in the text are Junkie and Naked Lunch. The text will analyze the books separately as well as together from the viewpoint of drug addicts being their own separate sub-culture amidst society.
William Seward Burroughs became one of the most well-known authors of the 1950s after his 1953 semi-autobiographical novel Junkie and the novel Queer. These two novels were originally written to be one singular work, but Burroughs later edited the novels to be published as two different works. While Queer was written during the same time as Junkie it was published in 1985 when Burroughs had become a more revered figure in literature.
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In 1959 when it was released the novel read unlike anything that had come before it. The novel was a real attack on the reader’s imagination and morals showing the reader page after page images and scenes the reader would have never even considered to be possible. It is this full on attack on the reader in every possible way that makes the novel such an interesting one. The language and structure make it very difficult to even get properly started reading the novel and the reader really has to endure and figure out how to make some kind of meaning from the book. Burroughs does not insult the reader by giving any real explanations for anything that happens during the novel, rather he gives the reader the freedom to seek meaning from the wild chapters. The novel is completely different than Burroughs’ first two novels Junkie and Queer forgoing the dry and analytical writing style for a style that is a mix between third person narration and stream-of-consciousness style. Some chapters also read like poems while others are reminiscing of his earlier…show more content…
Burroughs writes that addicts seem to have a special ability to recognize each other no matter what and that most addicts have an ability to notice a drug dealer no matter what the situation. This he claims is because the effects of drugs are similar for everyone. If one user feels a certain way after taking heroin it seems to be a good estimate that another one will feel the same way. It is this silent communication and understanding that is evident throughout Junkie. In the book’s prologue he writes about seeing a cell full of addicts, every one of them too sick from withdrawal to even complain. He says about the situation “They knew that basically no one can help anyone else”.
In Naked Lunch Burroughs compares addicts to ghosts. He writes that addicts are simple ghostly shells of themselves only looking for their next shot of heroin. “- -the tentative ectoplasmic flesh of junk kick - - flesh that fades at the first silent touch of junk” Burroughs also refers to addiction as being similar to being in a prison camp, suffering from malnutrition because an addict does not feel a need for food. In the chapter “hospital” the world view of a drug addict is given a lot of exposure and explanation “The addict regards his body impersonally as an instrument to absorb the medium in which he
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