“Portrait Of A Man Trying To Hang On” Wade Whitehouse is a man who is frightened to death of following in his father's footsteps, yet he follows them exactly. His violent temper and alcoholism are giant neon signs of how much he is like his father Glen and how closely related their actions are. Wade and his brother Rolfe lived with a violent and destructive man whose behavior was both mentally and physically threatening to his sons. Their father had successfully destroyed them in a long process that began when they were young boys, as they stood and watched him strike their mother. These boys grew up with only feelings of fear and loathing toward their father. Rolfe is the son who in a sense escapes and tells this story as the narrator. Wade, on the other hand, is captured by the violence and alcoholism and acts in the same manners as his father before him.
Wade and his father anesthetize their pain through alcoholism which Rolfe manages to just barely escape. We see Wade as a drunk, abusive, and overall sad father, ex-husband and sheriff who has lost control of his life. He is a very complex character from a small town that becomes mentally ill as time goes by. Is this due to his alcoholism? Does everything stem from his alcoholism and the fact that his father was mentally and physically abusive to both him and his brother? Is alcoholism Wade’s affliction? Or is it the devastating and lingering effects of the child abuse he grew up with?
There are many things in Wade’s life that might have driven him to become an alcoholic. For example his actions have cost him his marriage to Lillian, his daughter Jill doesn’t want to live with him, he is a sheriff in a small town with little crime, his mother dies and his father is hard to cope with in his old age, and his girlfriend Margie only stands by him until finally she too has had enough. These seem like common occurrences in the life of many Americans today, yet these are...
Banks, Russell. Affliction. New York: Harper Collins, 1989
Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. 1996. “Affliction” p. 23.
World Wide Web. Alcoholism. Available: http://www.alcoholism.com/ Retrieved 4/21/01.