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I Go Back to May

By jezebeljenkins Nov 09, 2010 674 Words
Sharon Olds’ poem “I Go Back to May 1937” is written as if the speaker; which appears to be female is looking back in time to when he or she’s parents first met and married. The speaker throughout the poem does not seem pleased with the events that unfolded thereafter, but nonetheless understands that there is nothing that she could have done to stop it from happening. The poem gives a short glimpse into the life the couple had and the effect it had on the child/narrator. The poem is almost a flashback, but instead of first person point of view, it is told from the perception of the child’s viewpoint, which seems predominately that of despair and hopelessness. The first line gives the setting of the poem, the ‘story’ being told starts off at a college, presumably this is where the mother and father met. It sets the reader up to believe this is possibly a happy time. The use of the word ‘formal’ to describe the gate gives a sense of the importance of the college setting. Throughout the poem it switches between descriptive lines about the father and the mother. The seperation of the two, tells the reader that all isn’t well between them. The father is first introduced as standing infront of “ red tiles glinting like bent plates of blood”(4-5), describing the tiles as plates of blood behind the fathers head could be seen as a symbolism for the father’s aggression. The father is then depicted as having an arrogant handsome blind face. The connotations that the word arrogance implies says a lot about the speakers view of their father. Having a blind face could mean he is blind to how others feel or possibly to the reality of how his actions affect his family. The next few lines describe the mother standing with the wrought iron gate ‘still open’ behind her. The way the author phrases the line saying the gates are still open makes one think that she had to give up her future once she married, possibly give up a career choice in order to raise a family.  The voice of the poem describes her mother as having a hungry pretty blank face, this can be taken as meaning she doesn’t wear her emotions on her face, though hungry for something she hides behind a blank expression; which suggests a feeling of hopelessness.The speaker says her parents “..are kids, they are dumb” (11) for getting married and believing that everything would work out, the speaker says they want to go up to them and say “ Stop/ don’t do it- she’s the wrong woman/ he’s the wrong man”(13-15).  The reference to the looks of both parents as being pretty and handsome could be an indicator as to how their relationship may be a shallow and artificial one. The speaker goes on to say how cannot do it; they cannot stop this union of two people from happening because in the end the speaker wants to live. The ending lines twenty six through thirty some up the entire feel of the poem. Line twenty six refers the parents to paper dolls reinforcing the feeling of them being too young. The lines “Bang them together at the hips like chips of flint as if to strike sparks from them” tells the reader that at one time there was a spark in the relationship between the poems narrator’s parents that inevitably must of fizzled out. The poem ends with the speaker saying “Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it”, this is the speaker coming to terms with their powerlessness over the situation. It leaves the reader wondering what exactly went wrong and the feeling that this poem was a way to tell about ‘it’. Overall I feel the poem has a lot of emotion and expression in it. The use of visual imagery helps support reoccurring sense of hopelessness.

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