The Victims Essay

Decent Essays

The process of addressing memories of private suffering within “The Victims” by Sharon Olds is implied through contradictive perspectives. In the poem there is a shift in focus and tone during line 17. The poem addresses issues of suffering from two distinct perspectives, the first coming from a little girl and the second a grown woman. The narrative, imagery and diction are different in the two contrasting parts of the poem, and the second half carefully qualifies the first, as if to illustrate the more mature and established attitudes of the narrator in her older years – a stipulation of the easy imitation of the earlier years, when the mother’s views dominated and set the tone. Change has governed the poems structure here; differences …show more content…

The children are the ‘we’ of the first half of the poem. They “loved it” (5) when the mother kicked out their father and were “glad” (1) at the result of divorce. When their father lost his job they “grinned” (4) and were “tickled” (line 7) with pleasure as they watched their father’s world crash down around him. The sympathy conveyed through the narrative sits with the mother and children during the first half of the poem. As the daughter begins to speak in present terms, and the “you” (1,3) suddenly is now “father” (17), the poem undertakes a dramatic shift. Sympathy begins to surface, from the reader, for the “bums in doorways” (18) who begin to take on a victimized persona with their hands depicted as useless “flippers” (21) attached to their “slug” (19) bodies. It is not to say that the speaker has forgotten the cruel insensitive man that she recalls in the first part of the poem, but the father is now not the only villain and the mother and children are not the only sufferers.
The use of comparative imagery throughout “The Victims” suggests that divorce induces suffering on the family sphere. During the first half of the poem a resilient (strong?) metaphor is present. The comparison between the family’s reaction to the father’s misfortunes and the way society responded to the disgraceful retreat from the U.S.

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