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The Use of Metaphor, Diction, and Symbol in Sharon Olds' The One ...

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The Use of Metaphor, Diction, and Symbol in Sharon Olds' The One Girl at the Boys Party

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  • Feb. 23, 2003
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In a poem of reminiscent adolescence, Sharon Olds defines a young girl who has the capacity to judge adolescent emotion with the benefit of time, for she is now a mother herself. This definitive view of adolescent values and thought is mingled with the mystery of symbolic mathematics, which represents a maturity of this thought and a colorful insight into the development of a young girl as she becomes a woman. This poem also accentuates the mystery associated with the minds of the female gender, and the strength of the adolescent, whose mother recounts a vicarious experience that seems to stand a landmark in the social and sexual development of a young female.

This poem starts in the boast: "When I take my girl to the swimming party...," continuing with the first juxtaposition of male with female genders, for the boys "tower and bristle," suggesting something naturally intimidating is inherent to the male gender. This is followed by the description of the girl, who is "smooth and sleek," an alliteration that denotes the use of diction, for the contrasted descriptions also have a set syllable pattern: the description of the boys uses two syllables per word in order to create a harsh, rough connotation, and the girl's description flows smoothly in each of the single syllable words. The next description incorporates the first usage of the mathematical metaphor/symbol, and contrasts the previous description of the girl, for her body is "hard and indivisible as a prime number," adding a independent nature to the character of the girl, and strengthening her role as a strong and feminist model for the beginning of adolescent maturity.

The continuation of line seven models the boys as merely a supporting role for the maturation of this young girl in an adolescent setting. The location of the poem is a swimming pool, the fancy of many children whose ambitions change from swimming to scouting the opposite sex. The addition of mathematics (pardon the pun) to this...