The first time I read Escape From Spiderhead, I was taken aback at how much had happened in such a short story. Jeff goes from being obsessively in love with not just one but two different people, to feeling an indescribable level of pain that drives him to kill himself. There are many different thought provoking aspects of the story but the one I found most interesting was the drugs that Abensti used, and the way he justified using them. When administering the “love drug” that causes Jeff to love both Heather and Rachel, Abnesti says
”Can we stop the war? We can sure as heck slow it down! Suddenly the soldiers on both sides start fucking. Or, at low dosage, feeling super-fond. Or say we have two rival dictators in a death grudge”.
This poses a seriously interesting hypothetical, would it be ethical to use drugs in this way if they existed? If a love drug seriously had the potential to stop wars, genocides, and hateful violence, shouldn’t we use it? I would say yes, but then we must also consider where the lines are drawn. Would it be ethical to secretly put some of the drug in my significant other’s coffee while they’re not looking because I’m scared they’re losing interest? What if it’s to keep two parents together to raise their child? And even if we are able to look past the various scenarios that test the morality of the use of these drugs, there is always the question of their validity. If Jeff and Rachel were somehow able to escape Spiderhead and begin a life together, would it be real? Does he actually love her and she, him? If he does, then is love just a bunch of emotions in our brains that are stopped as quickly as they started? Or is it more than that? In our reality, love and affection are deeply intimate emotions for most people. Falling in love with someone occurs (usually) over the course of much time getting to know them. Is this type of love more valid than the one Abnesti administered to Jeff? It would seem so but if you were able to ask Jeff when he was on the drug I’m sure he’d strongly disagree. Anyways, I don’t have any answers…just some things to think about!