Summary Of Rite Of Passage By Sharon Olds

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In Sharon Olds’ poem, “Rite of Passage”, she explores the expectations of what it takes to be a man, doing so by describing a gathering of young boys at her son’s birthday party. The young boys in the poem act in such a way as to imitate men, making clear what type of behavior they believe is expected from men, which is seen throughout the poem through their interactions with one another. It is this imitation that is the rite of passage which gives the poem its name. While the title of the poem denotes an event that we tend to think of as being concrete and a milestone in itself, it is used in this case to illustrate the transition between the innocence of childhood and the seriousness of adulthood even if, like in the poem, it is only the pretense of such. In this case it’s a seven year old’s birthday party and as the guests begin to arrive they are described as “short men, men in first grade / with smooth jaws and chins” (3-4). Olds refers to these children as guests and men, already implying a certain level of maturity, making clear in the process that to refer to them as children would be only superficially accurate. They loiter in the living room with their “hands in [their] pockets, they stand around / jostling, jockeying for place, …show more content…

Her sons “freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks” (16), reveals that the mother still views her son as a delicate baby, “chest narrow as the balsa keel of a / model boat” (17-18). Balsa wood is of soft and delicate material, which allows for it to be molded easily. Essentially the mother is crafting the boat, suggesting that even though her child shows manlike motives, she is still in control and has power over him. Her son announces without hesitation “We could easily kill a two-year old, / he says in his clear voice” (22-23), suggesting he is the superior and will come out on

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