At surface level, the narrator of Charles Baudelaire’s “Get Drunk” urges readers to, well, get drunk. It doesn’t matter how one becomes drunk, as long as he/she achieves drunkenness and “stay[s] that way.” Without being drunk, one cannot “avoid the backbreaking, body-bending burdens of time,” which makes drunkenness crucial to a state of contentedness and, ultimately, youthfulness.
The act of being drunk evokes two different connotations: to be so intoxicated that one’s motor skills become impaired or to completely saturate oneself in something. Although the narrator mentions alcohol as a means to this end, Baudelaire’s utilization of “drunk” exemplifies the latter. He urges readers to lose their souls in something—anything—that takes their minds off of time, off of their humanity, off of the impending death that slowly creeps upon them. Without Baudelaire’s employment of second person narration, the immediacy of the call to action would be lost, and the piece would suffer.
The first sentence of the story—“You must get drunk”—speaks to readers directly, grabbing their attention better than “He/She must get drunk” or “I must get drunk” would. Baudelaire employs the second person narration in order to force readers to believe drunkenness is their obligation and not someone else’s. Baudelaire hits harder with the second sentence: “That’s it: your sole imperative.” Here, Baudelaire wants readers not only to think drunkenness is their duty, but that it is the most important of duties. He gives readers some flexibility, though, when he writes, “On what? On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, your choice.” Once the feeling of drunkenness wears off, Baudelaire demands that readers “ask the wind, ask an ocean wave, a star, a bird, a clock, every evanescent thing, everything that flies, that groans, that rolls, that sings, that speaks, ask them what time it is.” These things will then tell “you: ‘It’s time to get drunk! To avoid being the martyred slaves of time, get drunk, get drunk and stay that way. On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, your choice.”’ Through this reaffirmation, Baudelaire wishes to strengthen a reader’s desire to get drunk. If the narrator urges readers to get drunk, and “every evanescent thing” urges readers to get drunk, then why should they reject such request.
After my initial read, I wanted to do what makes my spirit drunk—reading, writing, singing, photographing. I wanted to stay drunk in those things, forgetting time, forgetting humanity, forgetting my impending death. An author’s ability to sway his/her readers seems like a challenging task to undertake. Personally, I shy away from second person because it seemed unapproachable. I simply did not know how to handle telling others what to do. Baudelaire’s piece has been insightful in these regards: address readers directly. YOU SHALL NOT. In order to be successful with second person, the author must be demanding. Since then I have written a few pieces based off second person; they are, by no means, a Baudelaire masterpiece, but I plan to improve upon them.
For now, of course, it is time to get drunk and stay that way.