The Symbolism of Evil in the Big Book of AA


  • Kari Latvanen University of Helsinki - Faculty of Social Sciences



Hermeneutics, Paul Ricoeur, symbolism, evil, Alcoholics Anonymous, recovery


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) describes itself as a “fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2010). The fellowship has millions of members all around the world and the number of independent AA groups is counted in tens of thousands. In this article, I try to understand the recovery from alcoholism in the fellowship of AA as a meaning giving process where the alcoholic is invited to interpret the founding text of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism, and to appropriate the world that it opens in front of him. I focus on interpreting the symbolic language with which the Big Book of AA speaks of evil. I also explain how this symbolic language is related to recovery – i.e., how the alcoholic may find in the pages of the Big Book commonly shared symbols of stain, sin, and guilt which express his blind experience of evil.

Author Biography

Kari Latvanen, University of Helsinki - Faculty of Social Sciences

Doctoral student


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