Theme Analysis in the Victims by Sharon Olds

  • Category: Literature, Poems,
  • Words: 686 Pages: 3
  • Published: 28 March 2021
  • Copied: 193

The poem “The Victim,” takes the viewpoint of remembering the family’s life as adults. Even though the couple made vows. The poem talks about what the family went through to the end of divorce. They don't really care about him when he leaves. When the father loses his job, you can understand the feelings for her father as it is said in the poem. Yet instead celebrating his outing from the household and him eventually losing his job. It portrays how a dysfunctional family reacts to their mother divorcing their father after a period of abuse. Further leading to the events of the narrator and her feelings in the present. In the poem she demonstrates how the feelings of a child follows them into adulthood, loss of innocence, and how a decision affects all individuals within a family.

The first two lines of the poem uses a specific word “it,” to illustrate and give the reader a full look inside about the abuse and mistreatment in the household between the mother and father. “She took it and took it in silence,” (Olds 2). This line demonstrates repetition to highlight how serious the situation was in the household but is also very generic making the poem universal and less of a selfish personal letter. The next few lines give an indefinite description of the father. The poem does not specifically say what the father did to the mother or the family, but the family rather makes him out to be this awful human with a drinking problem as seen in line 10 when she says, “your lunches with three double bourbons.” It is more than likely that the mother put this type of image in her children’s heads to make them believe their father as a bad father who does not support their family like he should be doing. The lines following prove that the kids in the house are glad to see their father got fired from his job after the divorce. 

“Then you were fired, and we grinned inside, the way people grinned when Nixon’s helicopter lifted off the South Lawn for the first time” (Olds 4-5). The author uses repetition and metaphors to help the reader understand how happy the children were to find out their father had lost their job after the divorce.  In the poem this demonstrates a tone of hatred and bitterness towards the father, but there is never a clear statement saying as to what the father did to his family during this time. However, as the poem goes along these lines begin to correlate as the narrator shifts the tone of the poem in line 17. This shift change will illustrate the narrator in her present life and how her past thoughts about her father being basically left behind with no support from his family. In the poem the shift will change, and you will see in the poem how those feelings affect her today.

“Now I pass the bums in the doorways, the white slugs of their bodies gleaming through slits in their suits of compressed silt” (Olds 17-20), this represents how the narrator has grown into a mature adult and is walking by homeless guys who she feels reminds her of her father as the lines progress.  The narrator uses opposing emotions to further carry the message of abuse and divorce and how it affects the whole family as one and how they grow and live without their “deadbeat” father. The author uses imagery to provide meaning behind the story being told. Lines (21-23) references boats and objects used in boats to show how the father submerged himself with his abusive and destructive behavior.

Overall, the poem is written to further explain how people struggle with different feelings regarding abuse from childhood to adulthood. The author illustrates that children may only see what their parents want them to see but as they grow to be an adult, they begin to understand the situation a lot more thoroughly and how complicated it can be. With the help of literary devices such as alliteration, symbolism, and metaphors the author gives the reader a better understanding about what really goes on in the families lives. This poem was a good poem to read because it talks about things that everyone goes through in a broken home and what people feel when having to watch someone suffer from the things, they wish they could change.


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