Analyzing Sharon Olds 'Poem The Real Victims'

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The Real Victims Sharon Olds’s narrative-driven poem “The Victims” expresses the dysfunctional family dynamic between the speaker’s father and mother. Although the poem alludes to the father committing appalling actions against his family, the speaker does not reflect well on either the mother or the father. According to the narrator’s point of view, both have negatively affected the children’s lives. The shift from empathy toward the mother to empathy toward the father reveals what the speaker believes; while neither of the parents was truly the victim in their relationship, the ones who suffered the most were the children—the real victims. From the outset of the poem, the reader learns why the speaker’s mother divorced her spouse. The father…show more content…
The mother allowed for so much hatred to build up in the children that it became detrimental for them (15). Indeed, their mother instilled a longing for their father’s downfall. This notion demonstrates how the speaker does not find the mother completely blameless. Instead of teaching the gift of forgiveness, the mother wrongly teaches vengeance to her children. The speaker uses robust language here to describe the children’s relationship with their mother; she states that the children “pricked with her for [the father’s] annihilation” (16-17). This testimony seems to allude the mother trying to actively conspire against the father. Currently living as an adult, the speaker sees the homeless as she sees her father. In fact, the speaker describes their clothing similarly to her father’s (19). However, their ragged suits contain visible tears. She feels empathetic toward these bums as she does now for her father. Analogizing the bums to a sinking boat references how they have lost all their physical belongings as her father did (22-23). These bums once had so much to live for like her father, but they now have nothing. She also wonders if someone like the mother “took it from them (the bums) in silence” and took away everything except the bum’s hatred (26). In contrast to the first part of the poem, the speaker’s newly revealed attitude empathizes
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