Alcoholism is an important recurring idea in the novel because it is a disease that affects Patty Jane both as a child and later as an adult. Patty Jane's parents are both alcoholics. Rather than providing for their children both financially and emotionally, Patty Jane's parents spend all their time either getting drunk or finding the means to get drunk. Nothing Patty Jane can do will stop her parents from drinking. Patty Jane often finds herself having to clean up the messes left by her parents' drinking.