|Go ask Alice
Sept. 16–Dec. 25
(Sept. 16) An unnamed diarist, whom the novel's title refers to as Alice, records her first entry in a diary (these entries constitute the entirety of Go Ask Alice). She explains that she bought the diary yesterday when, in high spirits after being asked out by a boy she liked (Roger), she believed she finally had beautiful thoughts to share with herself through writing. Today, however, Roger has apparently rejected her. Alice fears a humiliating day at school tomorrow. (Sept. 17) The next day at school, Alice is miserably insecure and wonders why people always seem to hurt her feelings.
(Sept. 19–23) Alice's fifteenth birthday passes, and her boredom with life is interrupted only by weight gain and her accompanying self-loathing. But she learns that her father, a college professor, has accepted a teaching position at a different college and the family will move at the start of the new year. This perks Alice up, and she asks her diary to help her stay diligent in her mission to remake herself by losing weight. She fantasizes about Roger's asking her out and her rejection of him.
(Oct. 10) The family excitedly unites in preparation for the move. Alice is especially eager to start her life over, although she wants to take along her books, her most treasured possessions. (Oct. 17) Now that she knows she'll soon leave, school is fun again, and she doesn't care about Roger anymore. (Oct. 22) Alice goes on a date with a boy from school and obsesses on gaining weight and eating to her diary. She concedes that she doesn't like this new boy as much as Roger, whom she believes is the love of her life. She can't picture losing her virginity to anyone but Roger, and even then she can't imagine herself having sex or having a baby.
(Nov. 10) Alice is afraid to leave behind the house she's lived in her whole life. She vows to take her diary with her wherever she goes. (Nov. 30) Her grandparents visit, and Alice is especially sad to leave them. (Dec. 4) Alice's mother has taken notice of Alice's irregular eating habits and is forcing Alice to eat. Alice resents this intrusion and wonders if she could make herself throw up after eating. (Dec. 10) Alice writes that she is most herself with her diary. With her friends, she, like everyone else, tries to fit in and in the process loses her identity. She claims she does not want this to happen to her.
(Dec. 17) Alice's mother helps Alice sew a dress for a Christmas party to which she's been invited. Alice hopes to be like her mother some day and wonders if her mother struggled with the same romantic and identity issues when she was young. She wishes she could talk to her mother about this, since she doesn't trust the opinions of her friends. (Dec. 22) A boy drives Alice home from the party, and they kiss. Alice remains insecure and wishes she were more successful in every way. (Dec. 25) She has a wonderful Christmas with her extended family but is saddened by the realization that this is their final Christmas in the house.
Go Ask Alice opens with issues that are as relevant to teenagers today as they were in the 1960s. Alice is a perceptive, sensitive, and insecure girl who worries about boys, peer acceptance, her blossoming sexuality, and her family. She displays a heightened intelligence and an awareness of her emotions and records her sophisticated observations and feelings with lucid, readable prose. Alice's saving grace, here and throughout the novel, is her ability to explore herself through her diary while the outside world often disappoints. She capitalizes the word "Diary" and refers to it as a person, confiding in it and asking it to monitor her weight-loss regimen as if it were a close friend. Indeed, this is one of the major themes of Go Ask Alice; through her diary, she comes to know herself well and feels "Diary" knows her intimately, too, when no one else seems to. Her books fulfill a similar function; they harbor Alice from the drabness and pain of the real world and usher her into an imaginative world that becomes part of her own. The confusion in her memory over what she has read and how she has lived shows that Alice loves writing because it lets her experience a world that at the same time experiences her.
But connecting through writing alone is not enough to survive, as Alice laments throughout her diary. She hides her identity around her friends and can't talk openly to her mother. Social pressures contribute to her sense of alienation. She is especially unhappy about her appearance and, while she takes out her anger on her mother over her near-anorexia, the real enemy is society's notion of perfection. Alice sums up this idealized image, which she aspires to, as being "popular and beautiful and wealthy and talented." These are obviously preoccupations that inflict themselves on every age, but the way Alice describes her friends at school, as robots on an assembly line, suggests that in her hometown the counter-cultural rebellion of the 1960s has not yet overtaken the conformity of the 1950s. Alice's feelings about her sexuality, while still relevant today, are especially reminiscent of the 50s, with her naïve idealization of Roger and anxiety over losing her virginity. Still, she is more independent than one might expect, as when she flouts Roger and dreams about rejecting him, but her fear that she might weaken exposes her lurking insecurity.
Despite her inability to open up to them, Alice still views her upper-middle- class parents as role models (she even contradicts herself when she states she does not want to be like anyone else, then later hopes she turns out like her mother when she's older). The whole family is very close-knit, and Alice is especially attached to her grandparents. She sentimentalizes the notion of family and yearns for this bubble never to burst.
Jan. 1–July 14
(Jan. 1) Alice writes that she left a New Year's party the previous night because the boys were getting too drunk and wild. She is excited for the family's move in two days but confides to her diary her fears of not adjusting to life in a new place. (Jan. 4–6) The family arrives, but the move has been complicated and temporarily sinks spirits. After settling in, Alice changes her mind about the house and finds it beautiful. She is worried about school, which starts today. Her younger brother, Tim, and younger sister, Alexandria, have both met friends in the neighborhood, and Alice envies them and pities herself. She resolves to put on a cheery disposition. School turns out to be a disaster as no one speaks to Alice. She realizes that she probably treated new kids at her school the same way before and feels that she is getting her just desserts.
(Jan. 7) The rest of the family has adapted well to their new surroundings, but Alice still feels like an outsider. She wonders how, in a family of outgoing people, she always manages to feel distanced from others. (Jan. 14) School progresses, though no one has yet approached Alice, and she has gained weight, although she says she doesn't care. (Feb. 8) Alice's appearance is growing more unkempt, despite her mother's urgings to smile and be friendly. She feels like more of a social outcast and is frustrated with everyone and everything around her. (Mar. 18) Alice meets a friend at school, Greta, whom Alice finds is as much an awkward, unattractive person as herself. She believes her family is ashamed of Alice and Greta's friendship.
(Apr. 10–May 2) Alice's mother has promised Alice she can spend the summer at her grandmother's, provided she get her grades up. Alice is elated and plans to diet. Still, her relationship with her family grows more strained, especially with her siblings. (May 13–22) Alice meets Beth, a Jewish girl down the block. Alice is curious about her religion but finds that the two are more similar than she'd thought. She feels that her friendship with Greta was not based on anything substantial. Alice laments that she and her mother can no longer talk as they used to. Nevertheless, her parents approve of Beth. (May 24–June 15) Alice finds she can talk about anything with Beth, even Judaism but regrets not knowing more about her own religion. Beth tells her that, in Judaism, if the bride is shown not to be a virgin, the groom does not have to marry her. Neither of them knows how one might prove this. Beth relates her nightmares about this happening to her at her wedding. With school over, she and Beth go on a double date with two Jewish boys, but Alice finds that, despite his polite showing before her parents, her date is "all hands" in the car.
(June 18–25) Beth leaves for a Jewish summer camp, which devastates both girls who feel like they are the only ones who understand each other. (July 2—8) At her grandmother's, Alice is bored and wants to leave. In town with her grandfather, she runs into an old acquaintance, Jill, who was always more popular than Alice. The next day she invites Alice to a party at her house. (July 10) Alice attends the party and immediately feels welcome among the guests. They play a game that involves, unbeknownst to Alice, randomly dropping the hallucinogenic drug LSD in several of the soda bottles. Alice turns out to be one of the recipients of the drugged drinks and experiences an ecstatic, uninhibited drug trip. When she learns what happened afterward, she is happy about the experience but vows not to do drugs again.
(July 13–14) Alice tries to punish herself emotionally for taking LSD, yet she is curious to try marijuana. She decides to ask Jill to get her some. Now that her diary mentions illicit behavior, she says she will need to lock it up. On the way to the library to research drugs, she runs into Bill, the boy who "baby-sat" her during her acid trip. He is going to take her out tonight. She compares her voyage into the new world of drugs to Alice in Wonderland and wonders if Lewis Carroll took drugs.
Alice goes through a number of social changes in this half-year, and her instability helps explain her curiosity for drugs by the end. She is an outsider in all walks of life, most importantly in her family. Her father's rising stature at the university, her family's shame over her friendship with Greta, and even Alice's appearance—Tim makes fun of her "hippie" hair—exposes Alice's growing alienation from the family's middle-class values. Her friendship with Beth is an attempt (albeit a sincere one) to fit into their conventional mold. In her discussions with Beth about Judaism, Alice's ignorance of her own religion hints at another cause of her alienation. Nevertheless, her lack of religion and the less sheltered, more disillusioned life she leads because of it, helps her remain aware of the hypocrisies of the world, as when she ridicules her parents for not seeing through her Jewish date's prim posturing.
Alice is still innocent, however. She continues to worry about sex, and her experience with LSD is one of childlike wonder. In fact, her comparison to Alice in Wonderland is somewhat naïve, since the subtext of Lewis Carroll's book is, indeed, about drugs. The novel also inspired the Jefferson Airplane song, "White Rabbit," from which the diary borrows its title. Yet her linking the experience to a novel reminds us of Alice's greatest gift: her ability to write. She speaks several times of the inadequacy of words, both on paper and in conversation, to express her hallucinations (although she does a very good job of it). She writes that during her trip she found the "original language" of Adam and Eve but couldn't communicate it to the others. Earlier, she writes that she and her mother speak "different languages." Alice still has difficulty communicating to others, even when freed by drugs, although she does not yet realize this. Furthermore, this "original language" suggests that the language people use, literally and metaphorically, is no longer divided by a generational gap, but is split between those who do drugs and those who abstain. Another clue that drugs are taking over the part of her mind that literature used to fulfill is when Alice is unable to distinguish between what is real and not real during her trip. Previously, she sought refuge in books and used to confuse the events from literature and life, but drugs provide easier access into a fantastical world where she feels a communion with people and things around her.
July 20—Sept. 10
(July 20) Alice experiments with more drugs on her date with Bill, injecting speed into her arm. She feels completely uninhibited and as if she were a new, better person. (July 23) Her grandfather has a small heart attack. At first, she is afraid she will have to be sent home, making drugs inaccessible, but then Alice ponders her grandparents' imminent death. She then considers her own death, and, despite ultimately believing in an afterlife, she fears most of all what will happen to her rotting body. She decides she wants to be cremated. She also resolves to go home, because even though drugs are "beautiful," she feels there is something wrong about it.
(July 25-Aug. 2) Alice doesn't go home and instead helps her grandmother take care of her grandfather while avoiding her friends. (Aug. 3) Nevertheless, she succumbs and goes to a party at Bill's, where she takes acid and sits for hours examining her right hand. (Aug. 6) Alice loses her virginity to Bill while on acid. Part of her wishes she had saved herself for Roger. Instead of sex being painful or special, as she had previously imagined it, it turns out to be another "brilliant, freaky, way-out" part of her drugged adventures. She then worries about being impregnated and thinks she would have to get an abortion. Upset, she wishes she had someone to talk to about it.
(Aug. 9) Roger and his parents show up unexpectedly to visit Alice's ailing grandfather. Alice is taken with Roger and wants to throw herself in his arms. He asks her out and kisses her, fulfilling all her expectations. He is going off to military school soon. Alice is enthralled with him but feels guilty about her drug use and loss of virginity and thinks Roger would never forgive her or understand. (Aug. 10) Roger keeps calling, but Alice refuses to talk to him until she sorts out her guilty feelings. She wants to talk to someone about drugs but doesn't know whom to ask. Unable to sleep, she decides to take some of her grandfather's sleeping pills.
(Aug. 13–16) Alice goes home, and her family accepts her warmly. She decides to repent and start over. Everyone, including Roger, is concerned for her. She is still worried about a possible pregnancy. (Aug. 17–23) She finishes off the last off the sleeping pills and goes to see her doctor to get more. She thinks they're not as strong as her grandfather's, since she has to take two or three at a time. She receives more powerful tranquilizers, which she loves, and writes Roger an emotional letter. While she doesn't tell him about her drug use, she wonders if she could get him to try some. (Aug. 26) She gets her period and is so relieved she decides to throw away all her pills and tranquilizers.
(Sept. 6) Beth returns from camp, and Alice finds she's a changed person as well as resenting Beth's new Jewish boyfriend who monopolizes Beth's time. Alice goes to a store and Chris, a girl who works there, straightens Alice's hair. Her mother disapproves and tells her she looks like a hippie. (Sept. 7) Her parents have an emotional talk with Alice and tell her they are worried about her, but Alice finds they lecture too much and listen too little, as do all parents, leaving their kids without anyone to whom they can open up. (Sept. 9) She finds out that Roger won't be home until Christmas and, heartbroken, writes him that she'll wait for him. (Sept. 10) She visits Chris again at the store and tells her about Roger. Chris gives her a pill to pep her up. Alice takes it and, sure enough, she regains her energy and does some chores, but she is so hyperactive she has to take a sleeping pill to calm down.
Alice's continuing introduction to drugs and sex is juxtaposed against the conventionality of her former life. She is unable to connect with her grandparents, parents, and Beth, and it seems only a matter of time before she and Roger become incompatible. While she feels guilty throughout the section (especially in light of her grandfather's failing health), and often chastises herself for her "sins," she largely feels the others are the ones who have changed, as she accuses Beth of having done. Yet Alice is clearly the one who is changing, and she doesn't seem fully aware of it; while the doctor's sleeping pills may in fact be weaker than her grandfather's, a more likely explanation is that Alice is developing resistance to them after repeated use. Her up-and-down behavior is summed up by her use sleeping pills to offset the effects of speed; "That's life," she says in reference to the combination, and her statement suggests the turbulence of her emotional world as well.
Drugs make Alice feel like the person she never was before. Under the influence of speed, she says, she feels like a member of a "different, improved, perfected species." We can see that, ultimately, what Alice derives from drugs is a sense of being loved for who she really is, by the drug, by others around her who are also on drugs, and by herself. However, her fear of being eaten by worms, a nightmare that will recur later, reveals her deeper concerns. What seems to scare her most about the image is that she will rot away and no one will know what happens to her under the ground. This anxiety mirrors her running insecurity that she is rotting away above ground while no one seems to mind or is able to help her.
While Alice still maintains her diary regularly, the drugs unseat it as the main priority in her life. An ironic moment occurs when she stares at her hand for hours while on acid. Her hand, of course, is the tool by which she writes and as such is in many ways more communicative than her mouth is. Under the influence of drugs, it instead becomes an object of wonder that fascinates her mind in a way she is unable to communicate to anyone else. While her diary, too, was not shared with anyone, her continuing personification of it gives her writing the semblance of a dialogue.
Sept. 12—Nov. 22
(Sept. 12–13) Alice's parents continue to tell her she's acting like a hippie. She discusses the establishment with Chris, who comes from a prominent upper-class family. Chris gets Alice a job at her store, and they work together a few times a week. Alice thinks that Chris is her best friend yet. (Sept. 21) School has begun, and Alice is happy because she and Chris are popular, and she feels attractive and thin. She pops a "Benny" (a speed-pill) whenever she gets tired or hungry. (Sept. 23) Alice's father believes Alice is tarnishing the family image. She and Chris plan to leave and work in San Francisco.
(Sept. 26) Chris's friend, Richie, a boy from college, turns Alice on to marijuana. Alice experiences a new depth of physical sensation. Richie gives her some joints to smoke on her own. (Oct. 5–8) Alice and Chris are in love with Richie and Ted (Richie's college friend), respectively. To make more money for drugs, she and Chris have started selling marijuana. Alice soon convinces Richie it would be safer to sell acid instead. Alice wants to spend all her free time with Richie, but he has his sights set on medical school and works hard in college. Nevertheless, she will do anything to help him and is especially curious to try sex with him while sober.
(Oct. 17–18) Alice sells LSD to a kid at the elementary school. She is so repulsed by her action, and by the thought of that kid selling it to other little kids, that she vows not to sell there again. She and Chris discover that Richie and Ted have been having sex with each other. She shamefully regrets having worked for him. (Oct. 19) She and Chris decide to flee to San Francisco. To make up for having peddled drugs, Alice vows to turn Richie in to the police and stay clean with Chris. They leave in the middle of the night for Salt Lake City en route to San Francisco. Alice fears Richie will find her, as only she could have provided the detailed information to the police. She writes a farewell letter to her family and feels ashamed for letting them down.
(Oct. 26-Nov. 5) They move into a dirty one-room apartment in San Francisco. After a few depressing days, Alice finds a job in a lingerie store, and Chris secures a job in a boutique with a glamorous older woman, Sheila. Alice is still homesick, however, and would return home if not for fear of Richie and would write her family if the postmark wouldn't give away her location.
(Nov. 10–16) Alice quits her job and gets a new one with Mr. Mellani, an affable, fatherly custom jeweler. He invites Alice and Chris to dinner with him and his large family. She believes she could easily get a lot of dates from the businessmen who pass through the lobby by the shop if she weren't "particular." She has a great time with Mr. Mellani's boisterous Italian family, but the loving atmosphere makes her feel lonely. (Nov. 19–22) Sheila invites the girls to a party at her house. Alice is excited but intimidated at the prospect of mingling with the sophisticated guests. She wonders if they'll think she's naïve if she drinks soda instead of champagne.
Alice rebels from her middle-class upbringing through deed and language. After a fight with her parents, she says she can't do anything to please the establishment, but her word choice denounces conformist society as a whole. Other reflections of her changing values through her language come about through her casual use of "man," or that she hasn't yet met a guy she "dig[s]." Alice wisely points out that while her father can accent his ideas with his own academic language, the language of the counterculture is taboo.
Despite her deepening attachment to drugs and her alienation from the world, Alice remains aware of her actions and of the harmful effects of drugs. She and her friends comment on the hypocrisy of U.S. drug laws—it's harder for a minor to acquire alcohol than it is to buy illegal marijuana—yet she feels guilty for selling drugs, especially to youngsters. The unspoken reason behind her guilt over selling to kids is her own sense of lost innocence. While turning Richie in to the authorities is a move typical of someone within the establishment, for Alice it is a way to repent for her sins.
Alice also matures in this section, learning more about her sexuality with Richie. However, she has not yet had sex while sober, so much of this new experience is drug-tinged. Richie's betrayal shatters her belief in the purity of love. She later fends off passes from older men with the world-weariness of someone twice her age; no longer is she the girl who was head-over-heels in love with Roger and Richie.
Beneath Alice's psychedelic adventures is her continuing desire to find someone with whom she can have the same open, loving relationship she once had with her family. She says she is only experimenting with drugs but is "hooked" on Richie, but it's clear that she experiments with people (Beth, Greta, Chris), too, in an attempt to find a surrogate family. She even concedes this to herself, when she reflects that Mr. Mellani's belief that she is an orphan is somewhat correct. Her shifting emotions concerning her family—they were the major cause for her departure, yet she longs for them in San Francisco—are underscored by her visit to Mr. Mellani's. As a surrogate father figure, he is far more involved with his children than her own father was, who seemed to prize his professional advancement over his family.
Nov. 23—Feb. 24
(Nov. 23-Dec. 3) Sheila's towering, flashy apartment bedazzles Alice and Chris, and the beautiful guests are even more stunning. The girls are lured into smoking what appears to be marijuana and sleeping in the bathroom until the next day. Unable to remember the night's events, Alice worries she may have gotten pregnant again and resolves to take birth-control if she's going to continue partying—which she does, viewing independently wealthy party-girl Sheila as a role model. One night while with Sheila and her boyfriend, the girls try heroin. Alice realizes that Sheila and the boyfriend had raped and brutalized them while the girls were high on heroin. When they return home, the girls decide that they must kick their drug lifestyle. They plan to start up their own boutique, although Alice feels bad about leaving Mr. Mellani.
(Dec. 5–10) With Chris's business know-how and Alice's artistic talent, the girls find a new apartment in Berkeley and open a jewelry shop there. (Dec. 12–15) Their shop does decent business and turns into a hangout for the neighborhood kids, who watch TV and listen to their stereo. Alice listens to the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" and cries, identifying with the song's teenage runaway. She plans to return home around Christmas, though she doesn't mention it to Chris yet. (Dec. 17–18) The inane, drug-related chatter of the relatively privileged kids annoys Alice and makes her more lonesome for home.
(Dec. 22–25) Alice telephones home and tells her emotional mother that she and Chris will fly home. Her entire family meets her at the airport (as do Chris's parents, who reunite for the first time in years), and her grandparents fly in to stay for Christmas. Richie and Ted are not listed in the phone directory, which relieves Alice. The holiday spirit and family camaraderie revives Alice.
(Dec. 26-Jan. 1) Alice feels like her family accepts her as an adult, and she reflects on the difficulty of finding oneself in adolescence. She hopes the most trying times have passed. She sees a Christmas card from Roger's family and decides she must forget about Roger, as it was only puppy love. The family throws a New Year's party for the people in her father's department. Alice has a great time listening to the guests' anecdotes and cleaning up afterward with her family and Chris.
(Jan. 4–13) Alice begins school, and she wants to learn Spanish. A classmate asks her if she is selling drugs, and Alice has to convince him that she isn't. She's invited to a party, but she asks her mother if she and Chris can do something with the family instead. She also confides that some kids at school are trying to get them back into drugs. Her mother agrees that they will plan family activities for the next few weekends, and they have a great time in a mountain cabin.
(Jan. 14–21) A classmate, Lane, pressures Alice to get him drugs and even physically twists her arm in an effort to threaten her to get him some. He calls her at home, and Alice's mother senses something is wrong and encourages her to stay home from school, although Alice doesn't confide in her. School grows more complicated as it seems like everyone wants to lure Alice back into drugs, yet her mother is none the wiser.
(Jan. 24–Feb. 6) Chris has marijuana, and the smell hooks Alice. They smoke, and Alice restates her earlier belief that ecstasy is only possible under its influence. She asks Lane to get her uppers. Her social life improves, which pleases her mother, who doesn't know the real reason for the increased phone calls. (Feb. 13–24) Lane gets busted for dealing. Alice, not allowed out on weeknights by her parents, was not with him. The police raid Chris's house while she and Alice use drugs. They lie and tell their parents it was their first time and nothing happened. Nonetheless, the girls are put on probation and Alice will be sent to a psychiatrist.
The counterculture again betrays Alice, which increases her dependency on the unflagging trust of family. Sheila, as much a part of the establishment as anyone because of her wealth, only seems in tune with Alice and Chris because she uses drugs. Her heinous crime against them awakens them to the empty values of the counter-cultural life, which becomes increasingly evident in the boring company of the Berkeley teenagers.
Alice has by now passed through her trial by fire, and she feels like an adult from the way others treat her as an "individual." She declares "I am somebody!" but her real maturation is not from how others respond to her, but from her wise reflections on what it means to survive the troubled times of adolescence. Still, she is not completely ready to accept her past; she wants to repent for her sins, but she also wishes she could push her nightmares back into the "darkest and most inaccessible crevices" of her mind. She is not openly discussing her experiences to purge herself but instead represses them. Although she does open up to her mother a bit, she can't fully confide in her, and Alice's mom remains oblivious to her daughter's life apart from the family. Chris's unhappy home life is further indication of what causes an adolescent to go to these extremes—the inability to have an open relationship with one's parents. When Alice writes yet another "thank you" note to Mr. Mellani, it reminds us that the best way she can express love is through writing. It is no wonder, then, that she wants to learn Spanish, as she believes it is crucial to be able to communicate with "all people."
Alice's return to drugs makes her renege on all her prior declarations of loving family life. She reverts to her prior attitude that a life of sobriety is drab, and her discussion of drugs as mentally addictive substances reminds us that her drug use is not solely a hedonistic undertaking, but rather a debilitating psychological need. She remains perceptive, as always; previously, she and her friends had viewed the ease of acquiring marijuana and the difficulty of getting alcohol as a hypocrisy of the Establishment, and now she feels the same way about drugs and the birth-control pill.
Feb. 27—End of Diary One
Alice is under strict surveillance at home and can't stand it. She despises her psychiatrist and continues to do drugs without her family's knowledge. (The remaining diary entries are recorded on scraps of paper without dates.) She hitchhikes to Denver while she is a mile high. With little money, she shares a place with a few fellow drug users. They go to Oregon, but Alice gets sick, sleeps in a park, and loses her friends. In a church, a janitor directs her to a mission similar to the Salvation Army.
(Later) At the mission and a health clinic, Alice is cleaned up and given vitamins but refuses to let the authorities contact her parents because it will put an end to her drug use. She meets a girl, Doris, who lets her stay at her apartment. Alice takes to Coos Bay immediately and continues doing drugs. She is surprised to learn that Doris only 14. Still, their impoverished living conditions and the constant rain have made them both sick again, and Alice yearns for both food and drugs (she is far below her recommended requirements from the Food and Drug Administration, it would seem). Her withdrawal from drugs makes her more ill and lonely, and Doris's life story about sexual abuse from her stepfather and foster family siblings only depresses her more. She and Doris hitchhike to Southern California with a truck driver who hurts Doris and makes her cry. They manage to hitch a ride with some other drug users.
At a rally in California, Alice takes more drugs and finds life beautiful once more. Confused, Alice reports that she is now a "Priestess of Satan" in some kind of cult. She finds that she's now attracted to females but feels guilty and ashamed of it. She has been reduced to giving someone named "Big Ass" oral sex for drugs. She meets a pregnant girl who says her baby will belong to everybody. Alice wonders if she, too, is pregnant, as she's stopped taking the pill because she never knows what day it is. She loathes her fellow drug users and their lazy, irresponsible lifestyle. She reads in the newspaper about two boys who died of overdosing, and she wishes she were one of them.
(Another day) Alice talks with a priest about why kids run away from home, and he calls her parents. She talks to her mother and father on the phone at once, and to her surprise, they tell her they still love her and want her to come home. She feels better knowing this and commits herself to pleasing them. In the city, Alice waits for her parents to arrive. She meets several other runaways and talks to them about why they left home. Her theory is that hairstyle is a major cause of contention between parents and children, and her idea is validated by others. Given her experience, she imagines she may go into child guidance or psychology some day to help out others, and she vows to quit drug use. She reviews her recent diary entries and can't believe how depraved she was. She lays out two choices: she can commit suicide, or she can help others. She chooses the latter.
Alice finally gains enough sheer experience and converses more honestly with other runaways in this section to understand better what has caused her decline. Family is the greatest cause: everyone she talks to was in some way abused by their parents, with young Doris at the extreme. The pregnant girl's irresponsible care of her unborn child disturbs Alice, who always identifies with the other innocents she meets. The difficulty in defining oneself in relation to one's parents underscores her investigations—a boy whose parents denied his wishes to be an artist ran away to "preserve his identity." Others echo this desire, yet their identity is a mystery to them, as well. Alice's conversation with the other Alice (whom we must assume the editors believed symbolized the narrator enough to name her after) exemplifies this confusion, since the other Alice "didn't know whether she was running away from something or running to something, but … deep in her heart she wanted to go home." Her rebellion consumes her natural desire to become her own person and blurs her picture of herself—all that is clear is that, as a child, she still needs her family. Even when Alice commits herself to returning to her family and to pleasing them, it is clear that this is not the best solution, either, for pleasing only them is part of what made her run away in the first place. Alice diagnoses her real problem when, happy about her father's love for her, she wishes she could only love herself. If she could do this, she would care less about rebelling from or satisfying her parents and instead focus on her own, separate desires. This type of individuality, unfettered by external forces yet still responsible, defines an adulthood that Alice has still not yet attained.
Yet helping Alice on her way to adulthood is religion, which constantly intervenes and helps Alice when family cannot, in the form of the church and the priest. She develops a notion of Christian redemption on her own when it occurs to her that her suffering may have been worthwhile, as she can now better understand and be more tolerant of humanity. Her decision to help others has deep religious undertones, and she even concludes the first diary with, "I love God." If Go Ask Alice is a fictionalized work, as some people believe, then her salvation in April, the time of Easter, seems especially significant. Yet the choice she sets out before her redemption—to commit suicide or help others—reminds us that the dark side is always close to Alice. Even while on drugs at the rally, she has dual feelings that life is "so goddamned beautiful" and also full of "Goddamned stupid people." Her brief mention of the desire to overdose will be important in later sections of the diary, as we have to wonder if this was just a casual notice or a true warning sign of suicidal impulses.
Diary Two: Apr. 6—May 21
(Apr. 6–8) Alice is excited to renew her life with her family. She thinks about how she'll explain drugs to kids when she's a counselor—she'll be honest and discuss the pleasure of drugs but also tell them that they aren't worth the destruction. She has a long talk with Tim about drugs, as well as other important topics, and is proud to have such a sensitive, levelheaded brother. She feels guilty about whatever pain she might have caused him. She cries when she reunites with her grandparents and vows to make them proud of her. The family cat gives birth to a litter of kittens, and Alice marvels at the wonder of life.
(Apr. 9–10) The principal calls Alice into his office at school and berates her for her past behavior before sending her out. His cruelty only strengthens Alice's desire to become a guidance counselor to help those who need it. (Apr. 11) While sitting on her bed and planning a gift for her mother's birthday, Alice loses consciousness and drifts off into a reverie that she thinks is either a flashback (caused by LSD residue in the spinal cavity) or a schizophrenic episode. She fears she is losing control over her mind.
(Apr. 13) Alice cooks her mother a birthday dinner, and everyone enjoys the food. When Alexandria gives her mother a ceramic dish she made, Alice reflects that, while she used to be jealous of her sister, she no longer is. She feels love growing inside her and hopes someday to marry. (Apr. 14) She assesses her body in the shower and, despite not being completely satisfied, she is glad she is a girl. She wishes she could let go of her past, but bad thoughts intrude without her being able to stop them.
(Apr. 19–28) An old friend, Jan, asks Alice if she wants to use drugs. When Alice declines, Jan responds that Alice will be back. Alice is in a bind: she doesn't want to hang out with drug-using kids, yet the "straight" kids want nothing to do with her. Despite her sexual experience, she feels inexperienced in the conventional ways and would like to date a nice boy. Shunned by both groups, she is lonely and spends her time studying.
(May 1–5) Alice's grandfather has a stroke, and Alice worries about the effect of his eventual death on her and her grandmother. He falls into a coma and soon dies. She agonizes over the thought of worms and maggots eating his dead body underground. (May 8–9) At the funeral, Alice is shocked by the sight of his body and cries when it is lowered into the ground. She is amazed by her grandmother's strength. (May 12–14) Alice still isn't reconciled with the death of her grandfather or death in general. She admits that she doesn't understand a great deal about life but has faith that God is handling it. She has a nightmare about her grandfather's body being eaten by worms and maggots, but her mother wakes her up to talk about her future plans to become a social worker.
(May 16–21) Alice's father takes her to an anti-war rally at the university and speaks with her about the students—he is concerned many are being led into the wrong thinking. She feels very adult, and they visit a doctor, who gives her harrowing statistics on the worsening physical and mental health of young people. Alice feels that both the kids and the adults are to blame. Someone plants a joint in Alice's purse, and she leaves school to go to her father's office. He consoles her, but she knows he doesn't understand the full extent of her pressures, nor can he do anything but provide support. He gets her permission to use the university library, which she starts doing.
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.
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.
Alice writes in her undated diary from a hospital. She is unsure how she has ended up here and can only think of the worms she thinks are eating her alive. She has apparently been biting her fingers down to the bone. The worms eat away her "female parts," and she wishes she were dead. She has clawed up her face and the rest of her body, as well. She continues being paranoid and violent—she thinks a fly in her room will lay maggot eggs on her, and she pulls out her hair and beats her body up more. Her mother and father visit her every day, but not for long, as there isn't much to say until she gets her mind "working again."
Alice reveals that an accidental dose of acid is the cause of her breakdown. Her father says that someone had put it on chocolate-covered peanuts Alice was eating while she was babysitting. Alice slightly remembers this: she had been thinking of her grandfather while eating the peanuts, since he used to like them, and then during the acid trip he materialized as a skeletal figure. Worms and maggots cannibalized his body, then the vermin moved on to Alice, who tried to fend them off as her grandfather pointed to a casket next to his. Other dead things and people forced Alice into the casket and locked her inside.
Alice's mother and father believe that someone else "tripped" Alice without her knowing it. Alice is happier because of this, and she thinks she knows who did it, but has no way of finding out for sure. She is feeling better and will be transferred soon to another hospital. Her body is healing, although her hands won't be fully healed for a year. She is learning to control her thoughts of the worms, which she knows aren't real but which feel very real. Her mother brings Alice a packet of letters Joel has written her.
(July 22) Alice finds out she is being sent to an insane asylum. Her father tells her that when her case was brought before a juvenile court, Jan and another girl testified that Alice had still been on drugs and was selling them. Further details of the acid episode emerge: when the neighbors of the couple Alice was babysitting for heard her screams, they locked her in the closet and checked on the baby and called the police. By the time they'd let her out, Alice had injured herself by beating her head against the door until she had fractured her skull and suffered a concussion. Alice fears the asylum more than the worms.
(July 23) Alice registers at the State Mental Hospital. She is frightened by the ugly building and by the inmates, whom she feels are different from her. (July 25) Alice is introduced to the daily regimen at the Youth Center, the asylum's school and recreational center. She feels alienated from the other kids, who seem comfortable. Dr. Miller, a psychiatrist, tells Alice she can only receive help once she admits she has a problem, which she doesn't think she has—she knows she can easily resist drugs.
(July 26) Alice meets a little thirteen-year-old girl, Babbie. Sitting in the crowded recreation room, Alice asks Babbie if she'd rather talk in her room. Babbie takes this as a sexual proposition and says they should go to the storeroom instead. Alice tries to explain what she meant, but Babbie ignores her and tells her life story. While living with her father after her parents' divorce, Babbie was introduced to drugs by an older man. She started cutting school and became a prostitute. Her parents started noticing something was wrong, but they were too late—Babbie ran away to Los Angeles. There, she worked for an older woman as a prostitute. Babbie ran away again, to San Francisco, where she was raped and beaten. Babbie then met a man who made his own LSD, and soon she landed in the asylum. Alice feels like the asylum is a prison that makes her crazier.
Despite the mental horrors Alice endures, her mind stays somewhat resilient and her diary becomes her true sanctuary, not only as a place to describe her feelings but now as a proof of her own sanity. Her physical self-abuse is a manifestation of all her previous bouts of self-loathing and morbid anxiety. Her old nightmares of worms and maggots eating away at dead bodies now haunt her imagination, yet the worms and maggots now take on a new significance. In her acid episode, the "dead things and people" that were trapping her in the casket intermingle, becoming one entity that seeks Alice's harm. While not explicit symbols, the maggots and worms stand for all the destructive impulses of society that Alice has internalized into low self-esteem. Just as society is "pushing" her inside the coffin, it pushes her into drugs, pushes her away from her family, and pushes her into a lonely corner at school. She comments on the symmetry of her first and last drug uses, both of which were without her knowledge. In another way, though, all times were without her full consent. the drugs were pushed on her by a society that was cold and harmful and only gave her love and self-esteem when she was high. Again, Alice meets an extreme example in Babbie, another exploited, abused victim of society's cruelty.
Society again rears its hypocritical head. Alice is sentenced to an asylum, while the real villains—Jan and the other girl—get off scot-free. As Alice puts it, the "whole world is crazy," and, while some of the inmates at the asylum are insane, the outside world is just as incoherent. The theme of defining insanity versus sanity has been prevalent in literature from Hamlet to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and the reader can see that Alice, while mentally shaky from her episode, deserves freedom. Even her inability to understand whether the worms are real or not is partially a product of her vivid imagination that confuses fact and fiction.
(July 27–29) Alice tries to pray but feels the words are false and meaningless. She yearns for death. She starts going to school at the Youth Center, which is a relief compared to her room. Life in the asylum is draining her in all ways, as it has already done for Babbie. (July 31) She listens to other kids in a group therapy session, which she finds helpful. A leader of the session, a fellow inmate, assures Alice that it's all right to be scared but that she should share her fears with others. She aspires to join the Group One kids, who have more privileges and freedom from the hospital.
(Aug. 1) Alice's mother and father visit. They still believe her story, and will try and get Jan to retract her statement indicting Alice. (Aug. 2) Dr. Miller believes Alice, too, and encourages her to talk to the other kids in preparation for being a social worker. She hopes to get Babbie, who is aiming for a foster home, to read. (Aug. 3) She talks to a boy about his progressively harmful experiences with drugs and notices that he still gets a "contact high" from simply discussing drugs, as does another girl. (Aug. 4) A girl proposes that she and Alice flee the asylum and go back on drugs.
(Aug. 5) Another visit from Alice's parents brings a long letter from Joel. Her father reports that Jan has retracted her statement, and they're trying to get the other girl to do the same, in which case Alice will be let out soon. Joel's warm letter makes her excited to see him again. (Aug. 8) Alice finds out she's going home tomorrow. She is ecstatic but admits that the asylum was not as bad as detention school would have been. She also feels guilty about abandoning Babbie.
(Aug. 9) Alice returns home and is happy to be with her family. (Aug. 10) She prays to God not only for helping her, but to help Jan and the other girl. (Aug. 14) On a trip with her family (her father is going to guest-lecture at a university for two weeks), Alice thinks that Joel is the only good thing in her life and decides to abstain from sex until she's married. (Aug. 17–24) Alice enjoys staying at the university until she stumbles into some poison ivy. (Aug. 27-Sept. 2) The family takes a trip to hot New York, but their plans to go to Chicago to visit Joel are derailed when Alice's father is called back to the university.
(Sept. 6–10) At home, Alice is invited to go swimming by Fawn, a "straight" kid. Alice is insecure around Fawn and her friends, even though they seem to like her. She has a fun time with them and hopes they haven't heard stories about her. (Sept. 16) Alice's old piano teacher wants her to be a soloist at special recital. Alice is enthused but unsure. (Sept. 19) She has a great time at a party thrown by Fawn but realizes she will have to be honest with Fawn about her past before Fawn hears it from somewhere else.
(Sept. 20) Alice gives her father a sweater and a poem by her for his birthday. Joel surprises her by showing up and kisses her on the lips in front of her family. He gives her a friendship ring, which she vows to wear her whole life. (Sept. 21) Alice is worried about starting school again but feels stronger with the support of her new friends and Joel. She comments that she no longer needs a diary, for she now has people in her life with whom she can communicate.
In the epilogue, we are told that Alice died three weeks later of an overdose—whether it was premeditated or accidental remains unclear—and that she was one of thousands of drug deaths that year.
Communication is the great salvation in this section. Even in the asylum, the ability to communicate to others in group therapy helps the inmates better understand themselves. As the therapy leader puts it, when thoughts are kept inside they are "magnified" and "distorted." Even facts, it seems, can be distorted; as Alice admits, her promiscuity is distorted, since she's never had sex without being high. Alice's reservations about prying into the kids' lives are signs that she will make a good social worker. She understands that an important part of communication is recognizing that it is difficult and that one must respect the difficulty others have in sharing what they may be ashamed of or frightened by. The only way to get through this, as Alice finds, is by taking little steps of trust, as she has in talking with Joel and as she will with Fawn. By the end of her diary, she recognizes that, while knowing oneself is good, one must take that knowledge and share it with others. Opening up to others is the only way to defeat her gnawing sense of loneliness and her fear of worms and maggots eating dead bodies (and her body), which symbolize, among other things, the loneliness of having no one know what is happening in your mind.
Not everyone is cured and not only because they haven't run the horrific gauntlet Alice has—many of them have—but because they are numbed, robotically accepting their station as addicts. Many fit the second category of kids who have identity problems (as determined by the article Alice reads)—those who have had to make too many decisions before they're ready—and, as a result, take drugs to become the type who don't have to make any decisions. Alice believes she's in neither category, presumably because she came from a stable middle-class home, but the line she continually walked between childhood and adulthood is becoming easier to define. Her choices, like the one to open up to Fawn, are more premeditated and responsible, and she has opened her emotional horizons. Whereas before she felt guilty for the pain she caused others, she now feels bad for those she simply cannot help, like Babbie, or even Jan. Alice's great ability to communicate with herself through her writing has blossomed and affected her relationships with others. If she cannot communicate just yet with them, then she can at least better empathize with them. If not for her death, we can safely assume she would have made an excellent social worker whose suffering had a purpose.