Poem Analysis: On The Subway By Sharon Olds

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“On the Subway,” written by Sharon Olds, is written from the perspective of what is presumed to be an upper class white woman, who finds herself on a subway with a lower class black boy. In “On the Subway”, Olds focuses on the controversial issue of racial conflict, and the theme of White v. Black. She does so by use of contrast between whites and blacks, by using harsh enjambments, powerful imagery, and by using the tone to convey the purpose. A major strategy used by Olds throughout the poem is contrast; in this case, the contrast between blacks and whites. For example, “And he is black / and I am white, and without meaning or/ trying to I must profit from his darkness…” (Olds Line 21-23). In this particular example, Olds says outright the difference between the two; the color of their skin. This quote from the poem, not only tells us their differences based on their skin color, but shows contrast in their lives as well. Based on the time period of this poem, we can assume that blacks are still very much unequal to whites. So, when she says, “without meaning or / trying to I profit from his darkness” (Olds 22-23), it seems as though she is…show more content…
An example of an enjambment from the text is, “There is/ no way to know how easy this/ white skin makes my life, this / life…” (Olds 26-29). The enjambments, although simple, give the poem a much more powerful meaning, by showing the harshness of the reality for blacks during this time period. They seem to reflect the thoughts and emotions of the poem and the author. It shows that she feels somewhat guilty, because of what she has in life because of her skin color, as opposed to what the boy has because of his skin color. They are not controlled, but that seems to be the point, because it is a free flow of thoughts. The enjambments make it seem as though it is the narrator’s thoughts pouring out freely, showing the emotions that she is

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