On the Subway

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The poem "On the Subway" by Sharon Olds plays off its title to convey a sense of uncertainty, dread, fear, and urban tension. The poem itself details the feelings experienced by the speaker as she sits on the subway, though the subway itself is not mentioned in the poem itself. The situation is set by the title, and this makes all that follows clear as far as its meaning is concerned. The poet creates a dramatic situation through the eyes of one participant, and while nothing really happens beyond two people observing one another, the poem says much about urban life, racial relations, and accompanying fears. The poet attempts to lay bare the similarities and differences between the life of a Caucasian person and that of an African American person by contrasting two people of this description through the poem. Using a vast array of poetic devices, imagery and traditional racial stereotypes; the poet develops the insight into the connections, separations, needs and wants of these two societal entities. This is where the sociological lens comes into play, where the differences of society affect our daily lives. The poet utilizes a lot of imagery in the poem, most vividly dark and light as well as animal imagery to contrast her two characters. With the two lines "in black sneakers laced with white" (line 2-3) and "I am wearing dark fur," (line 11); poet shows that each of them, although they have different skin pigments, contain aspects of dark and light. This is very significant, as it reinforces the fact that the race is merely skin color, and that underneath all of this we are all the same, although the poet takes it further than this, showing aspects of dark and light in what they are wearing on the outside. The poet insinuates through this comparison that not only are we the same on the inside, but each of us strives for a small aspect of the other world. The boy's white lace and the speaker's fur coat represent the struggle for equilibrium...
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