The Victims By Sharon Olds Poems do many things for a person. The words in a certain poem can have many different affects on many different people. They can incite laughter or tears, anger or serenity, fear or reassurance, hope or despair. These feelings are unable to be helped or coached. They happen naturally and without thought. The responses that each reader gives, however, is quite different. These are thought about long and hard. They are the “whys” of a poem’s affect on us.
Why do they give us whatever feeling it is they give us? Why do we cry at one poem and laugh at another? Why and how do we, as the reader, get into the poem? “The Victims,” by Sharon Olds (found on page 30 of the text), exemplifies these differences well. As I read this poem, I related the poem to my own life. I reflected on how my experiences and the circumstances we see in many family situations today affected my response to the poem. For instance, my immediate idea of what was happening was that the husband was cheating on his wife. Neglecting his family for his work, and/or someone there, determined why his wife would kick him out of his own home.
His being fired may have something to do with some sort of sexual misconduct. The simile between him and Nixon may be an analogy to how the “father” of the country and the father of a family, head of a nation and head of a household both have to leave due to infidelity- one being unfaithful to millions, the other to his wife and children. The bums at the end of the poem appeared to me to be a metaphor. The father had lost “everything.” In the author’s mind, and my own, that everything consists of the things in life that cannot be bought- love, happiness, security, and other such feelings. These reactions are thoroughly thought through and developed.
If discussed within a group, however, I am certain that more than one person could come to the same conclusions that I did. With guidance, many people can see a poem the way another looks at it. However, a poem is still never the same for any two people. There is always that “something more” on which no one can ever quite put their fingertips. This is what poetry is.
The feelings that we get deep inside, the involuntary ones that we can never help but feel, those are the ones that give us the real feelings for a poem. In example, in the same poem as before, my initial feeling was one of sympathy for the mother and her children. As revelations were told, it changed with the author to that same feeling of justice she must have felt as her father was fired. I understand the childish glee at seeing revenge in life taken out on someone who has hurt us. Knowing, like Olds must have known later on, that the mother was teaching her children something- namely hatred- that she really should not but cannot help, I felt a sort of sadness.
The mental images of the bums dole out the pity and calm maturity of a grown woman as she remembers her father when she was very young. These emotions are just a few prominent ones of the many that raked my mind as I read and reread “The Victims.” The mixture of them all come to form an overall mood for the poem that nobody else can quite duplicate. This sentiment cannot be expressed in words, nor can it be kept to oneself. This sort of reaction to a poem shows how a person sees it from the inside. When reading a piece of poetry, the reader is transported into the poem by these feelings and emotions. As one can see, there is a great distinction between a reaction to a poem, and its train of thought to come to a conclusion, and the unconscious feelings one receives from a poem, whether they be physical, emotional, or otherwise. When reading literature, these ideas are ever present.
In poetry, there is never a “wrong” or “right” answer as to what feeling a poem conveys, because as we find out, a reader can never help how he or she feels about a poem. Nor can he help it when a poem touches him so deeply that it is never forgotten, and through both reactions and sentiments is the only way in which this can happen. Poetry Essays.