How does Sharon Olds use similes and word play to portray the mother and daughter's relationship?

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clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"red tiles glinting like bent plates of blood behind his head"

This first simile is violent in nature, she is comparing the roof of the building behind her father to blood. She chooses something red and then compares it to blood, which tells me that she is angry with her father. When she describes her mother it is almost as if she is imprisoned by the iron gates casting their shadow behind her, she almost feels sorry for her mother because she had no idea what she was getting into.

"I take them up like male and female paper dolls and bang them together at the hips like chips of flint as if to strike sparks from them."

These final three similes also speak of violence, perhaps she was abused as a child by her father, whom she has more anger toward, and she is angry with her mother for doing nothing. She says that her mother has a "hungry pretty blank face" which could speak to her mother's weakness and obliviousness that she has toward the bad marriage and possible abuse. She compares them to paper dolls, which are flimsy and weak, but then she says that she will bang them together which says that she is much stronger than they are. She also doesn't entirely regret the experience for without it she would not be here. She sounds very angry, but she also sounds as if she struggles with her desire to love her mother as well because she bangs them as if to strike sparks so she doesn't wish it never happened.

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I Go Back to May 1937

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