harsh and sometimes inhumane decisions, Denis Johnson’s Emergency depicts these characters as having a dull, unsympathetic outlook on life. Despite this seemingly shallow outlook, the intentions behind the characters’ decisions are simply to aid others in need. This suggests that their intoxicated condition gives them a larger understanding of the human condition that those who are not under those conditions. We must first consider the actions that Georgie and Fuckhead take throughout the story that may seem harsh, irresponsible, and at times inhumane but are in good intentions.
Georgie’s decision to take the knife out of Terrence’s eye is nquestionably an irresponsible move; he is not the appropriate fgure to make the call as he does not posses such authority. This decision, however, can be pieced with other information to show a process of rationality on behalf of Georgie. The patient initially claims to have lost some motor skills due to the knife, which leads to his conclusion that the knife is in his brain. We later learn that his mobility was in fact not impaired.
After taking into account the fact that the patient’s sight and motor skills were unaffected, taking the knife out seems like a choice that could not have any possibly lethal consequences. It is analogous to the simple removal of a knife out of a stab wound on the leg; although a normal person should not remove a knife from a wound, medical professionals know when it is generally safe to pull it out. This instance in the story is important as it portrays a drugged person taking more matters into consideration when making a decision than a person who is not, a process known as rational thinking.
Another instance that showcase the intoxicated characters’ good intentions is Georgie’s reaction to running over a rabbit. While his immediate response of cutting the animal open and taking out its organs may seem arsh and a little inhumane, the reaction to what he finds thereafter is what matters. Upon opening the rabbit and realizing it has babies inside, he decides to attempt to nurture them and even raise them.
What is surprising here is the idea that Georgie, while drugged, is able to empathize and realize that he must take responsibility for his action; although this notion of being responsible for one’s actions might be seen as an ethical thing to do, it also encompasses an intelligent process that is very much a human feature: acting with appropriate Judgment. Lastly, Fuckhead’s decision to ive Hardee a ride to Canada to escape from the draft is one that consists of empathy and concludes with Georgie realizing what he thinks his purpose in the world is.
When Hardee asks Georgie what he does for a Job, Georgie responds ” I save lives,’ (395), a response that is fitting in a literal sense but is also descriptive of his actions in the story. Georgie ultimately feels empowered by drugs and this empowernment unquestionably amplifies his ability to showcase his human features, doing so more than his unintoxicated counterparts. The actions and reactions of the non-intoxicated characters from the story also support the notion that they xperience the human condition to a lesser extent than the drugged characters.
In a scene prlor to Georgie’s aeclslon to take a KnlTe out a patlenrs eye, tne doctor on duty in the hospital decides that the patient’s case is beyond what he believes is his competence. He makes this decision before interrogating the patient or even caring to check his vitals. A nurse in the hospital later says “His vitals are normal. There’s nothing wrong with the guy. It’s one of those things,” (387) from which we can conclude that “one of those things” refers to a case where the right treatment of a atient ends up being simply an ordinary, uncomplicated procedure.
The doctor’s quick response to not tend to the patient suggests that he only analyzed the implications of the case on himself. Quite simply, he only thought about himself and showed little empathy towards the patient. He asked himself what he knew and what he thought he could do. In the process of decision-making, he weighed in only what he thought he knew about the situation and failed to investigate further; thus, his process was an irrational one.
In fact, this behavior of irrational thinking is also later bserved in the entire room of doctors and medical professionals who were each thinking about their own ways of approaching the removal of the knife from the patient’s eye. This scene not only proved the doctor’s lack of rational process and empathy, but also provided a scope as to how similarly others act; a room full of unintoxicated people where caught up in thinking about themselves and their thoughts on the matter at hand.
This large scale perspective puts the intoxicated Georgie ahead of these people in terms of expression of human features. Another reaction that we must account for is that of the family that drove by Georgie after he ad ran over a rabbit. Like Georgie, the family made an initial appropriate Judgment of stopping and checking what had happened. Nevertheless, after realizing what it was that Georgie had stumbled upon, they sped off assumingly in a bit of a disgusted state because of the premature babies.
This is a similar case to the doctor who acted on his initial Judgment of the patient with the knife in his eye; the father of the family saw the babies and did not bother to ask Georgie what he would do and only weighed in his personal opinion of the matter. In a state of disgust, he acted on that opinion and sped off. This scenario is analogous to a case where a driver chooses to flee a car crash scene simply because the scene is too gory or even obscene. The appropriate thing to do in a case like that would not be to flee.
Rational thinking and perhaps even a small amount of empathy would lead to a decision to help the victims or to at least make sure someone else will help them; in the case of the father, it is almost as if he would have approached the crash scene, asked the victims what had happened, realized someone had died, and immediately fled the scene thereafter. The absence of rational thinking on the unintoxicated dad’s behalf exhibits once ore that the intoxicated characters held the upper hand in rationality.
In perhaps his most elegiac line of the story, Georgie’s description of humans as having “so much good inside of us and it all wants to get out” (383) perfectly depicts his outlook on drugs. The “goop” he mentions is representative of all the features that humans possess that make them unique. In this pool of features are the behaviors that Fuckhead and Georgie showcase throughout the story: rational thinking in a complicated scenario, appropriate Judgment after that rational thinking, and empathy. Georgie even flaunts this empathy by feeling a bit sad for the people who re not able to release the “goop” inside of them.
Reflective of his repeated and nlgnllgntea arug aouse, Georgie reels tnat Intoxlcatlon Is tne only way 0T releasing the “goop” inside humans and therefore the only way to truly showcase what being a human being really is. This story is perhaps Georgie’s remembrance of his personal experience with intoxication; he felt like it empowered him in a way that helped him have a tighter grasp on certain things that make us human. While intoxication does not always provide a better understanding of the human condition to those under he influence, it is quite evident that it does in this story.
We see intoxication lead to rational thinking, more empathy, and appropriate Judgment. The fact that he could not pinpoint whether he was thinking about the correct date when describing his and Fuckhead’s Journey further expands the idea that Georgie has had several similar instances where he has done things like those he did in this particular memory; these repeated experiences further support the idea that his intoxication augmented his understanding of and experience with the human condition by providing additional evidence for his superior human condition.