Study Guide

The Art of Fielding Drugs and Alcohol

By Chad Harbach

Drugs and Alcohol

[Schwartz] unclasped his backpack, fished for his bottle of Vicoprofen, tossed three in his mouth. He tried to avoid Vikes while thesis-writing, but tonight was a special occasion. (12.19)

This is the first instance of Mike using pain pills, and the fact that he has a nickname for them doesn't bode well. That means his relationship with them might be a little too casual.

Schwartz's temples throbbed with half a hangover. Eighty ounces of Crazy Horse wasn't part of his usual pregame regimen. (19.1)

This is the second time we're told that Mike "usually" didn't or "tried" to avoid drinking or pills. Sounds like it's starting to become an excuse, as the instances he does use are starting to outnumber those when he doesn't.

Today was going to be a long one: in his rush to leave the house, he'd left his Vicoprofen behind. Now, like a true addict, he emptied his bag, side pockets and all, strewing the contents on the bench. The sweep yielding two chipped and dusty Sudafed, three Advil, and a promising white spheroid that turned out to be a mint. He threw it all in his mouth, germs be damned, and downed it all with a slug of lukewarm Mountain Dew. (21.5)

Yep, Mike is a true drug addict. Only someone going through withdrawal would be this desperate, so desperate that he drinks warm Mountain Dew. Eww.

[Mike had] popped three Vikes with a handful of Advil, bundled up as best he could, and was preparing to recede from consciousness. (33.1)

Mike is using these pills to escape as much as he is trying to relieve his knee pain. He doesn't want to feel less pain; he wants to knock himself out.

The Vicodin, though it did almost nothing to mute the pain in his shins and knees, coursed through his brain in a wonderfully gentle way. (33.38)

Here, Mike basically admits that his body is immune to the pain-relieving powers of the pills… or his pain is too extreme for them to touch. But he keeps taking them anyway to shut off his brain.

"My mom usually drinks a couple screwdrivers. She says the orange juice has a soothing effect." (33.51)

This is advice from another member on the team about what to do calm down Henry. Does he have a point? Could one drink do any harm?

Pella wanted to go to Bartleby's and scotch herself into a stupor. (35.1)

This is one reaction to dealing with a problem. Or in this case, not dealing. By avoiding their problems and turning to drugs or alcohol, the characters only make things worse.

Shortly after dawn, eight Schlitzes in, Schwartz walked to the VAC under low-slung clouds, not feeling drunk or sober. (36.1)

By this point, we don't think a single character has been sober in about three chapters. Even Henry is going to start drinking like a fish soon.

"Moderation means small, non-habit-forming amounts. That's not you. You've got a problem with these narcotics. Period. You're going through withdrawal, and the sooner you ride that out the better." (61.40)

Once the doctor puts the kibosh on Mike's pill-popping problem… he stops. Once, later on, Owen gives him some leftover pills, but that seems to be it. Is Mike "cured"? Did he even have a problem to begin with if it's that easy to kick? If not, why bring it up at all?

A pill was the opposite of what [Henry] wanted. A pill was an answer that somebody else had worked hard to come up with. He didn't want that. A pill was small and potent. He wanted something huge and empty. (68.39)

At first it seems like Henry is turning down the pill because he doesn't want to take the easy way out of a problem, but then it seems like he just doesn't want to do anything at all, and he's avoiding the pill because it might make him better. Why do you think Henry avoids taking antidepressants even though he's peeing in Gatorade bottles and saving them as though that's perfectly normal?