Fire on the Home Front - The Possessive

Fire on the Home Front - The Possessive

Length: 725 words (2.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Fire on the Home Front - The Possessive  

    General Douglas Macarthur said that "the best time to meet the threat [of war] is in the beginning. It is easier to put out a fire in the beginning when it is small than after it has become a roaring blaze" (qtd. in Urofsky, part 9). The mother in Sharon Olds' "The Possessive" undoubtedly feels the same way. War is a terrible time between two or more nations that fight to part from each other or for some other reason; nations fight over property rights and independence. In "The Possessive," Olds uses powerful images of war, such as helmets, blades, and fires to show how her daughter is similar to a warring country that has pulled away from her.


Sharon Olds states "In her bright helmet / she looks at me as if across a great distance" (Olds, 506). The helmet exemplifies the imagery that Olds uses to show the warlike tone in her poem. In modern day wars people see pictures of Cruise missiles and Stealth Bombers on CNN. However, when asked what they envision when they think about war, some will talk about guns, knives, helmets, and fires. As Olds talks about her daughter, she realizes that there is an impending battle yet to come. This battle, too, will be about possession. When her daughter sits in the barber's chair, Olds realizes that her daughter will soon reach her teens. The teenage years are a time when parents battle over cars, boys, and other rights with there children. The children and parents will fight over haircutting rights. As Olds reports, her daughter "has been to the barber, that knife grinder, / and had the edge of her hair sharpened" (506). Knife grinding and sharp objects are another image of war. Soldiers must be sure that their instruments are perfectly sharp if they want to win the war. The first time Olds things about the upcoming battle occurs during the warlike image of the haircut. These first warlike images set the tone of the rest of the piece.


The most vivid and important warlike image that Olds uses in "The Possessive" is the image of fire. The fire imagery appears more than once in the piece. Olds writes that "Distant fires can be / glimpsed in the resin light of her eyes" (506).

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Fire on the Home Front - The Possessive." 19 Apr 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Fire Safety in the Home

- Good morning students, As a fireman, I like things to be safe, I like things to be simple, and most of all, I like children to be safe. I am here today to talk to you about electrical hazards and safety measures to avoid getting seriously injured. There is one thing you must always remember, electrical safety always leads to fire safety. You must know that new electrical components are always safer than old worn out ones. Electricity may not look harmful at first glance, although you might be surprised of it's devastating fire power....   [tags: fire safety,]

Research Papers
589 words (1.7 pages)

The Possessive - Empty Nest Essays

- The Possessive - Empty Nest   A nest lies empty on top a forked branch of an old oak tree. Last spring children play, young lovers whisper into each others ear, and the elderly relax under that tree. When they do, they can hear the quiet chirps of little hungry baby blue-jays. The little blue-jays chirp until the mother blue-jay returns with food . Afterwards, one attempts to fly and fall out of the nest. The mother blue-jay then quickly swoops down and catches the little one before he hits the ground....   [tags: Possessive Essays]

Free Essays
688 words (2 pages)

Essay about Sharon Olds' The Possessive

- The Possessive Teenage rebellion is typically portrayed in stories, films, and other genres as a testosterone-based phenomenon. There is an overplayed need for one to acknowledge a boy’s rebellion against his father, his life direction, the “system,” in an effort to become a man, or rather an adult. However, rarely is the female addressed in such a scenario. What happens when little girls grow up. Do they rebel. Do they, in a sudden overpowering rush of estrogen, deny what has been taught to them from birth and shed their former youthful façades....   [tags: Sharon Olds The Possessive Essays]

Research Papers
1266 words (3.6 pages)

Decline Of Support On The Home Front Essay

- North Vietnam to South Vietnam and vice versa without being discovered or caught (Wiest, 2002, 30). Decline of Support on the Home front The US government had to promote and ask support for a war that was getting to be more and more unpopular back on the home front. The height of this war came at a time that was rife with student activism, coming on the heels of the height of the civil rights movement. Freedom of thought and of speech was the agenda of the day, and US campuses were filled with protest marches deploring the draft and questioning the legal and moral right of the US government through its leaders, to intervene in this war (Guttman, 1969, 58)....   [tags: Vietnam War, South Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson]

Research Papers
1520 words (4.3 pages)

Fighting On The Home Front Essay

- Fighting on the Home Front: Teachers during World War Two The morning following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, teachers and students alike went to school as normal, but they all knew that change was on the horizon. While most people fretted about the potential upcoming military involvement in a war that had not previously affected the United States directly, several brave teachers used December 8th as the day to change their lesson plans and speak with their students candidly about the attack and about the war as a whole....   [tags: Education, World War II, United States]

Research Papers
1155 words (3.3 pages)

The Home Front Changed Forever Essay

- The Home Front Changed Forever Chapter 1 The U.S. Economy was on a slow return trajectory from the devastating effects of the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression that followed; Hoovervilles still littered city landscapes, a relic to the Presidency of Herbert Hoover. The United States had a new President and it was under President Roosevelt and his new deal programs that unemployment would decrease from its all time high of around 21 percent to about 9 percent. Tensions overseas were growing and our relationship with the Empire of Japan was being stretched to the limit....   [tags: U.S. History ]

Research Papers
4580 words (13.1 pages)

All Quiet on the Western Front Essays: Can’t Go Home Again

- Can’t Go Home Again – All Quiet on the Western Front During his leave, perhaps Baumer’s most striking realization of the vacuity of words in his former society occurs when he is alone in his old room in his parents’ house. After being unsuccessful in feeling a part of his old society by speaking with his mother and his father and his father’s friends, Baumer attempts to reaffiliate with his past by once again becoming a resident of the place. Here, among his mementos, the pictures and postcards on the wall, the familiar and comfortable brown leather sofa, Baumer waits for something that will allow him to feel a part of his pre-enlistment world....   [tags: All Quiet on the Western Front Essays]

Free Essays
579 words (1.7 pages)

Free Essays - All Quiet on the Western Front

- All Quiet on the Western Front The setting of this novel takes place in Germany during World War I. the war is being fought at the fronts- which is almost every side of Germany where other countries lie. For the most part, Paul Baumer stays on the western front, (north west of Belgium), during the three years when the novel takes place. The setting is very important because it shows the darkest part of the war, when most of Germanys fighting takes place. Paul Baumer, a young soldier who enjoys writing poems and plays, becomes a man during his three years of service....   [tags: All Quiet on the Western Front Essays]

Free Essays
960 words (2.7 pages)

Life Change on the Home Front Essay

- Life Change on the Home Front During the First World War, Britain had to change and adapt to a new way of living. Many of those changes have lasted until today, but a lot of them reverted back after the war finished. Some of these new conditions improved civilian life and others downgraded it. The war brought people together and divided them too. At the beginning of August 1914 the British population were enthusiastic and excited. Everybody believed the war would be over by Christmas with a magnificent victory for the allies....   [tags: Papers]

Free Essays
1184 words (3.4 pages)

Home Essay

- Home      My definition of home is not a word I can say or a thought I can think, but a feeling. This feeling is like a calm that settles over me like a blanket, just a quiet assurance telling me I belong in that place. It took me forever to understand where exactly that place was, and the answer was always right in front of me. This feeling would come and go, and I would never recognize it because I knew that only my address and the house that I parked my car at and went in to eat and sleep for 18 years was my home....   [tags: Personal Narrative Home Descriptive Observation]

Research Papers
1781 words (5.1 pages)

Related Searches

Images of fires are seen in war movies as villages being burned or bombs exploding into raging blazes. Thus, the image of fire becomes more powerful when readers have experience with war. When the readers have this experience, they bring a preconceived notion to a reading of how these images appear when associated with war. Even the final two lines of the poem definitely show the powerful imagery of war in this piece. The last two lines of the poem state that the light the mother sees in her daughter's eyes is "the watch fires of an enemy, a while before / the war starts" (506). These images of fire surely refer to the fiery spirit of the daughter seen by the mother. These images give readers a sense of why the mother thinks that a battle will ensue between her and her daughter.


General Macarthur went on in his speech to say that "the best way to meet the threat of aggression is for the peace-loving nations to act together. If they don't act together, they are likely to be picked off, one by one" (qtd. in Urofsky, part 9). Through the warlike images of this piece, readers see that the mother realizes that a battle is likely to occur between her and her daughter. Similar to many wars, theirs' will be a battle over possession. The vivid warlike images that reappear time and again in "The Possessive" help to set the tone of the piece. They also help concrete the seriousness of the battle that will soon occur between the mother and daughter. Olds leaves readers with some hope that maybe they can work together to alleviate problems "before / the war starts" (506).



Works Cited

Olds, Sharon. "The Possessive." Discovering Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays. 2nd ed. Eds. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele L. Rico. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1997. 506.

Urofsky, Melvin I. "Recall of General Douglas Macarthur." Civnet: International Resource for Civic Education and Civic Society. United States Information Agency. 11 Apr. 1999. <>.


Return to