The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me Alcohol, probably the oldest drug known, has
been used since the earliest of societies for celebration, rituals, and other
social situations. In the early 1920’s, society viewed alcohol as more of a
social problem. The 18th amendment was passed to outlaw the consumption, sale,
or trade of alcohol. This action caused much more delinquency, as a result of
gangsters, and other organized crimes against the government. Prohibition was
abolished with the 21st amendment in 1933. The poem "The Heavy Bear Who Goes

With Me" was written only a few years after prohibition and reflects the true
nature of alcoholism. Although alcoholism was still frowned upon in this era,

Schwartz uses a bear to expose and reflect the true nature of alcoholism. In the
last stanza, "The secret life of belly and bone" shows that Schwartz feels
that alcoholism is still unacceptable behavior. Schwartz uses physical,
emotional, and psychological aspects of a bear to explain the nature of
alcoholism. Schwartz gives the bear human characteristics that would be true of
an alcoholic, "Clumsy and lumbering here and there" and "In love with
candy, anger, and sleep." Much like bears, people who are alcoholics, may
experience a great deal of difficulty keeping his/her balance or controlling
their emotions. Schwartz furthers this metaphor of an alcoholic by showing a
physical dependence: "Trembles and shows the darkness beneath." Due to
withdrawal, an alcoholic may wake up in the morning with tremors and distress
that require a drink for relief. The bear is also eager to engulf his physical
need as shown in the line, "A manifold honey to smear on his face." This
strong need for alcohol outweighs what a person knows and understands about the
effect on the body. Schwartz conveys to his readers that alcoholism is an
inevitable burden. He tells us the bear is "That inescapable animal walks with
me / Moves where I move, distorting my gesture." It is apparent that Schwartz
feels that alcoholism is a burden. Conflicts with culture may make it difficult
for some people to develop their own stable attitudes and moderate patterns of
drinking. An alcoholic may feel the drinking is a way to become more sociable or
change their mood. The author shows that although the bear appears to be
confident, he has many insecurities, "The strutting show-off is terrified,
dressed in his dress-suit." Schwartz shows an unhealthy connection to
drinking, "A sweetness intimate as the waters clasp." This line explains the
emotional hold alcohol has over the bear. Using the word "intimate," he
shares with the readers what a very personal issue this is for an alcoholic.

When he describes the "waters clasp," the reader is able to understand what
a strong grasp alcohol has over him. The bear "Howls in his sleep because of
the tightrope" to further explain the emotional pain associated with this
illness. Along with physical and emotional duress, the psychology of an
alcoholic is a deep, recurring issue. An alcoholic who has sustained from
drinking is referred to as a "recovering alcoholic," not as a "cured
alcoholic." The author is unable to freely admit this is a problem for him; he
uses the bear as a scapegoat. Schwartz tells us the story of the bear on his
back. He leads the readers to believe that if it weren’t for the bear that
everything would be okay. He states, "With whom I would walk without him
near." If the author could do this and leave his unbearable problems, he feels
it "would bare my heart and make me clear." An alcoholic must recognize that
he or she is powerless over alcohol, and seek help from a higher power in
regaining control of his or her life. Alcoholism is an extremely serious problem
it both today as it was yesterday. The poem "The Heavy Bear Who Goes With

Me" was written to expose a serious problem in an era where there was little
or no help for this serious illness. The disorder is marked by extreme or
compulsive use of alcohol. This horrifying disease strikes millions of

Americans, "The scrimmage of appetite everywhere." Schwartz complaints of
the bear and describes it as a continuing problem throughout society. The author
is able to articulate the seriousness of alcoholism using metaphors of a bear. A
reader must read between the lines to understand how Schwartz conveys that
alcoholism affects a person physically, emotionally, and psychologically.