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Morphine Seminar

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Damian Dickinson

on 19 December 2012

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Transcript of Morphine Seminar

Morphine Thesis Through the study of Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road, there is a theme through the use of morphine that is strengthened by the reoccurring aspect of appearance versus reality. The use of morphine alters the characters by way of their relationships, their mental instability and the dangers of the drug while also highlighting occasional positive portrayals of morphine use. Elijah's First Use "Elijah stares up into the dark, smells the horses, floats just above the ground on warm golden water, listens to it hit the ship, the beckon of snuffling and snorting animals like whispers from thirty paces.
He tries hard to keep his floating head tethered. It hovers above him, tugging gently, wanting to float, to drift and see what there is to see." (Boyden, 126) The first time Elijah takes morphine, he describes it as floating on warm golden water. He talks about how his head tries to float away. Having his head float away from his body, or floating on warm golden water are all appearance. His actions involving cutting Grey Eyes' arm in order to get the morphine showed the negative reality of what the morphine can do. The positivity of the warmth and the gold Elijah spoke of are opposite of the dark reality of morphine. "But when the golden liquid is in his veins! Even at night the world is bathed in a soft light. He hears men talking and he understands what they are truly saying beneath their words. He can make himself float form his body at will and look down at the world below him - the world that man has created - and still see the beauty in it." (Boyden, 212) Relationships in Three Day Road There are several relationships throughout the novel that are affected by morphine use. The most prominent however, are Elijah and Xavier's relationship and Xavier and Niska's relationship. These relationships show the characters who are under the influence of morphine separate themselves from reality, as well as the character who is sober's attempts to save them. Elijah and Xavier Elijah becomes addicted to morphine soon after they join the war. This addiction, although the effects are slow, cause Elijah to become immune to the realities of the world.
"In the long hours of hunting Elijah tries to understand what is growing in him. He talks to me about this through the nights we spend out in the damp and mud. Mist rises form craters and swirls in the stink. In the end, the answer that comes is simple. Elijah has learned to take pleasure in killing."(283)
This quote shows Elijah's realization that his mind has changed, which was caused by the morphine that inhibited Elijah's conscience and his ability to understand right from wrong. Although Elijah did have past experiences, such as the abuse in the residential home and the loss of his mother, that offer explanations for his lack of empathy towards other humans. In the beginning when he tells Thompson, "It's in my blood"(75) he still has a grip on reality and that killing is not a sport, however after he gives in to the morphine addiction his opinion on the deaths of humans changes. "Elijah, he says the spark fills his belly when it gnaws for food."(200) This quote describes the feelings Elijah gets when he knows that he is the last thing that the dead he buries sees. He's cynical, enjoying that he has such control over the dead, which continues to his enjoyment of controlling who dies. Positive Portrayals Throughout the reading of Three Day Road, there were many instances where morphine was portrayed positively. The effects the morphine had and the way that it effected people's minds when they were taking the drug often came across as good and happy. Elijah has become consumed by the morphine. He explains the reasons why he likes the drug - giving the appearance of positivity when taking the drug. But without the drug, Elijah goes crazy, fearing the world and getting major headaches. He also says he says he has lost too much weigh and has not been able to relieve his bowels. He sees the drug by its appearance instead of its reality. Elijah's Addiction Xavier's Addiction "I shakily reach into my duffle and feel for the envelope, feel the warmth of the sunlit river coming to lift me up." Xavier has now become addicted to the morphine. He is with Niska but the thought of Elijah still haunts him. He looks for the positive appearance of the world that morphine gives him for a short while, instead of dealing with his pain and reality. As Elijah is veering farther away from the realities of life, Xavier is trying to bring Elijah back to reality. Xavier realizes that Elijah is living an appearance; what the other soldiers see as a brilliant sniper and happy person Xavier knows is a broken man with no understanding that there are consequences of the drug he is taking. "He never lost his ability to talk. I think it was this ability that fooled the others around us into believing he hadn't gone mad." (269) Elijah can't see that Xavier is beginning to give up on him, he only sees the world he wants to see and will do anything to achieve his goals, despite the amount of lives that must be lost for it. Their relationship was changed forever when Elijah began taking the morphine, and ended when Elijah felt the need to kill Xavier, his best friend, simply due to his need to save himself. Dangers of Morphine Use “I also see that Grey Eyes has the glassy look of medicine in his veins and he is not paying close enough attention […] When I look over, I see ten yards away from me Sean Patrick on the ground withering like a snake and grabbing his neck, blood spurting out in impossible amounts, his eyes with terror of what is coming.” (Boyden 11) Dangers of Morphine Use (I) From this passage, it is abundantly clear how Grey Eye’s addiction to morphine caused the death of his comrade Sean Patrick. Grey Eye’s used the drug to get him through the war as painlessly as possible when in reality, it would result in much emotional pain over Sean Patrick’s death. The use of morphine led to sloppy mistakes that would cause deaths in the war. Morphine seems like a drugs that helps the soldiers when in reality, it brought pain and grief. ... Dangers of Morphine Use (II) “But when the golden liquid is in his veins! Even at the night the world is bathed in soft light […] He can make himself float from his body at will and look down at the world below him- the world man has created- and still see the beauty in it. He becomes the hunter at these times, the invincible hunter who can lie still for hours, for days, only moving to refuel his body with the medicine, using his osprey vision to spot the enemy.” (Boyden 212) ... Elijah see’s the morphine as an asset, as something keeping him human while amidst the war. However, in reality the morphine makes him a lethal killing machine. He shows no remorse for his actions or kills but instead hungers for his next kill. The morphine in effect became Elijah’s most valued weapon. It allowed him to block out his conscience and focus solely on being the hunter. Dangers of Morphine Use (III) “Elijah’s own body screams for the needle. He does not listen to it as he slips the needle into the soldier’s arm and flushes the medicine into his veins. Elijah watches and imagines the dull warmth spreading through the soldier. The man’s body relaxes, his face goes slack and his eyes close. Elijah takes another needle and slips in into the same tiny hole in the soldier’s arm, flushed more into his veins. He watches as the slow shadow of death creeps across him, watches as what was once alive goes cold and tightens.” (Boyden 337) ... This is another example of the dangers of morphine use. The first needle caused as wave of relief to the injured soldier. The immediate relief is shown across the man’s face. Shortly thereafter, when Elijah injects the second needle in the man, the dangerous effects of morphine become evident. Elijah used the seemingly helpful morphine to murder a fellow soldier. Dangers of Morphine Use By including these passages in his novel, Boyden was able to emphasize the various dangers associated with morphine use. Throughout the novel there are many instances demonstrating the serious dangers linked to morphine use. Improper usage of the drug often led to disastrous results. Seminar Questions Ashlynn
Do you think that morphine was right to be used during the war? Why or why not?
Why do you think may be the contributing reasons for morphine addiction during the war?
Kelly:
Would you be capable of dealing with a close friend or family member who was addicted to morphine, or would you be forced to give up as Xavier did on Elijah?
Were the relationships in the novel realistic? Why or why not?
Why do you believe Xavier was capable of overcoming the pain of morphine addiction, why Elijah wasn't? Xavier and Niska Whereas in Elijah and Xavier's relationship Xavier was in touch with reality, and trying save his friend, Niska and Xavier's relationship outlines the opposite.
"There is truth in this story that Xavier needs to hear, and maybe it is best that he hears it in sleep so that the medicine in the tale can slip into him unnoticed."(259)
Niska is trying to save Xavier from the morphine, knowing he will not survive without her. She is trying, through her stories, to bring him back from this alternate world morphine puts him in. Her stories are a pain medication in themselves, as they distract him from the pain that is killing him. Niska is trying to do for Xavier what he could not do for Elijah; break his addiction and allow him to go back to the life he had before. Niska had spent much of her life teaching Xavier how to survive, but this is a new stage in their relationship. Niska is an actual windigo killer, although Xavier believes he is one as well. Through Xavier, Niska learns that sometimes you can save the monsters and heal the sadness inside them. Niska is Xavier's only reality, she shows him the truth in the world and truly saves his life. Xavier, who had been Elijah's reality for so long, is now living in the world of appearances. To the military he now is Elijah, a decorated war hero; to Niska he is a sick man who needs to be cured. He is convinced he is simply going to die, that he's not going to be capable of surviving without morphine. This struggle between what he is now known as and his true self is difficult for Xavier, he doesn't want to suffer from Elijah's sickness but every time the drug pulls him in.
"But there is something calming in the idea that I am Elijah. There is something appealing in being the hero, the one who always does the right thing, says the funny thing. Now I understand his love for the medicine. It takes all of the badness away. The world is warm and close with the medicine surrounding me."(373)
Xavier understands Elijah's world now, is living the same world. The difference is that Xavier still knows right from wrong, still knows Elijah was wrong and doesn't want to become that. Xavier's pull towards reality is stronger than Elijah's, and with Niska's help he does eventually succeed in getting over this addiction and can live the life he wants to live. He forgives himself for killing Elijah, due to Elijah's murderous habits, and thus this divide between appearance and reality that Elijah began due to his morphine addiction, closes for the main characters. Morphine and Mental Stability In Three Day Road, the effects of morphine on the mind is clearly shown in many passages concerning Elijah and Xavier, and some less important characters. Page 205 Xavier notices that when Elijah uses the morphine, he loses his English accent. This shows the drugs use on his memory and conscience. He's almost separated from himself, mentally. One part being his body on the ground, the other being his mind hovering and floating above the battlefield. Page 349 "Elijah turns to me. Blood is smeared across his cheek. His eyes are wet with tears."

This passage shows the progress of the addiction. When the receptors in the brain become saturated with morphine and other alkanoids, the brain becomes a jumbled mess of wires. This passage shows how the morphine is messing with his bodys natural reactions and emotions. Page 346 "In his blood-lust Elijah would probably kill me"

This is another passage showing the insanity caused by the morphine abuse. Elijah and Xavier used to be as close as brother, but because of Elijah's morphine abuse, Xavier is worried he might kill him. Elijah is becoming increasingly unstable. Hannah
From the portrayal of the morphine, do you find it appealing? Why or why not?
After seeing the negative reality of Elijah's morphine use, and hearing the 'positive' stories Elijah tells, would you take morphine if it was offered to you? What are the motivating factors for your decision? Conclusion In conclusion, through these four aspects in the novel, positive portrayals, relationships, dangers and mental stability, morphine is an effective theme that teaches that although the appearance of a person may be absolutely 'normal', there is always a reality underneath that is hidden.
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