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Anger in The Victims
In The Victims, by Sharon Olds, the author reveals the dark side of a society where divorce is prevalent, some family members find it hard to cope with. In the first half of “The Victims”, it sounds like a young child is telling the experience regarding her parents’ divorce.
The speaker expresses anger toward the father. “When mother divorced you, we were glad.” (Line 1) The “we” is probably several children and their mother. It appears they all experienced an unpleasant life with their father. The mother “took it and took it, in silence” (Lines 1 and 2) and the children were also told to endure the abuse. What was it that the mother had to take? From the reading it appears there was some type of abuse. The abuse could have been physical but was most likely verbal and then again it could have been total silence. The father could have been a workaholic and never spent any time with them. This type of neglect really hurts as there is no togetherness or closeness.
The bitterness toward the father was cold, so much so, that when he was fired, “we grinned inside.” (Lines 4 and 5) The speaker wanted some relief to the years of hurt so laughing about what happened to their father was an emotional outpouring of how the speaker wanted to get back at him. When the father was fired, the speaker compares this incidence to “when Nixon’s helicopter lifted...the last time.” During Nixon’s presidency, there was the Watergate scandal. News of this event carried around the world and most people wanted him impeached but instead he resigned. The feeling was that of remorse yet the country knew he had to leave. The same feeling is depicted in this statement.
The speaker expresses happiness to the fact that those things of material value to their father were taken away. She is concerned over whether they would take away his suits. To her this is the only symbol of her father’s identity that she remembers and if they took the suits away, it would be an end to the years of silence. Maybe the speaker felt like if the suits were taken away, then maybe her father would seek another type of job and not be so distant.
The mother “taught us to take it, to hate you” (Line 15) until there were no thoughts of their father around them.
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The speaker goes from past tense in the first half of the poem to the present tense for the remainder of the poem. In the present tense the speaker compares her father to the bums on the streets as the bums were nothing and no one cared about them. He is also compared to a “ship gone down”. (Line 22) In other words, his presence with his family existed no more and because of the years of silence it was going to be hard as an adult to reach him.
Even though the poem begins with a strong sense of hurt and the speaker feeling they were the victims, it ends with her wondering who really was the victim. This poem did not designate who the speaker was; however, since Sharon Olds wrote it maybe the speaker was she telling of her own life experiences. In several places within my essay I refer to the speaker as “her” or “she” because I felt it was Sharon Olds telling this story in a poem.