Confessions of an English Opium Eater

The Self as Influenced by the Uncanny in De Quincey's Opium-Eater

Even before Thomas De Quincey fully expounds upon the mental and physical effects of frequent substance abuse in his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, he states that “…if no definite boundary can be assigned to one’s power, the spirit of hope and pleasure makes it virtually infinite” (8). Far from delivering a simplistic commentary on opium through his confessions, De Quincey uses his narrative largely to display its impact upon the mental aspect of self definition. In Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle’s article “The Uncanny,” the authors suggest that “…the real is not something that is simply a given…but is constructed through human perception, language, beliefs and assumptions, and consequently it is something that can be changed” (Bennett 37). Though this quotation does not specifically incorporate human perception as it relates to environmental factors in its definition of the uncanny, the opium use present in De Quincey’s confessions becomes an integral component of the author’s ever-evolving self perception. The Romantic interest in the uncanny as is seen in De Quincey’s work centers both upon interactions with one’s surroundings as well as how a shifting perception of these same surroundings catalyzes and influences...

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