Sharon Olds

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How would you explain meaning, tone, symbols, and setting of the poem "The Language of the Boast" by Sharon Olds?

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There is no established setting in Sharon Olds's 1980 poem "The Language of the Boast" because the poem is more of an exploration of the speaker's emotional landscape than a literal one she occupies. One setting that recurs, however, is the "centre" of a crowd or a circle.

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There is no established setting in Sharon Olds's 1980 poem "The Language of the Boast" because the poem is more of an exploration of the speaker's emotional landscape than a literal one she occupies. One setting that recurs, however, is the "centre" of a crowd or a circle.

The tone of the poem is not static. In the first two stanzas the speaker confesses her desire to be seen by others as strong, skilled, and as free as the boys she sees playing in a sandlot. The stanzas are an expression of her yearning that have sexual connotations and admit a desire to possess dominance through the vitality of her body. In the third stanza she admits the weaknesses of her body as it is ravaged by the demands of pregnancy; the language reflects her temporary despair as it oozes, swells, and pains her. In the final three stanzas the speaker's tone becomes increasingly triumphant as she acknowledges the miracle her body has performed in giving birth.

Symbols in the poem include the "centre of a crowd" as the speaker's desire for public recognition and admiration. The "new person" to whom she gives birth is her creation; she contrasts it to the creative desires of American poets Whitman and Ginsberg.

The poem's meaning can be interpreted in a few different ways. It can be seen as drawing a parallel between the act of creation of art and the creation of new life. It can be read as an expression of the difficulty of women to be seen as strong, vital beings worthy of the admiring gaze of the public, as performers, artists, or in other ways. It can also be read as an affirmation of the innate strength and sacrifice of women as the bearers of new life.

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