A Complete Turnaround
Sharon Old’s poem, “The Victims,” deals with an underlying theme of abuse. Old’s illustrates this theme through the tone of the poem, which is achieved by imagistic language, rhyme and rhythm. In this poem the speaker is illustrated through two points of view, first as a child then as an adult reflecting back on a troublesome childhood experience. As the speaker’s point of view changes so does the use of poetic devices.
The poem opens with the speaker remembering the behaviors of an abusive father when she was a child. The tone at this point was one of disgust, hatred, spite, and taking joy in her father’s failures. This was due to the fact that she was taught to feel this way by her mother. As a child she was not aware of this. It was not until adulthood that she realized her feeling of resentment towards her father were evoked by her mother. The speaker, herself, was not the victim of her father’s abusive behavior nonetheless she still hated him because that’s the only way she knew how to feel. These feelings are shown through the imagistic language used to reveal the acts of revenge on the father. When the mother finally divorced the father, “her kids loved it” (3-4). When the father was fired from his job, “we grinned inside” (5-6). The pleasure that the entire family took watching their father’s demise was quite vivid. “We were tickled to think of your office
taken away, you’re secretaries taken away” (7-9). The finality of the father’s loses was shown by the taking away of his pencils and reams of paper at his job (11). The images used in the first 16 lines are very dark and gloomy and are associated with death. This is as if to represent the family’s way of “killing him through his loses. The suits that belonged to the father were depicted as “dark carcasses that hung in your closet” (13) and Olds specifically pointed out that even the noses of his shoes were black (14). After the first 16 lines of the poem, the feelings of hated by the spea...
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poem reflects the speaker’s dissent and hatred of her father. She was expressing her anger, and when one is angered they tend to speak abruptly and choppy. As the speaker’s attitude towards her father changes, so does the punctuation in the poem. From line seventeen until the end of the poem there are no stops. There is only one period and that occurs in line 26. The poem definitely proceeds at a smoother pace. It shows that the speaker is calmer, and more relaxed. Her words flow together. Her feelings of rage and resentment to her father have subsided and feelings of sympathy and remorse have taken over.
During the course of this poem the speaker has done a complete turnaround. The point of view she once held as a child has given way to a different one later in life. Her anger and hatred have turned into sympathy and regret. Olds effectively uses imagistic language and rhyme and rhythm to portray the speaker’s shift in tone. What she was taught as a child was not who she truly felt inside. Not only was her mother a victim, but her father was as well. She is able to overcome her hatred, and find her true feelings for her father later in life.
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