In "The Victims" by Sharon Olds, what exactly is the speaker's feelings towards her mother and father?I don't understand the reference to the father's suits, both to him and the bums.  The...

In "The Victims" by Sharon Olds, what exactly is the speaker's feelings towards her mother and father?

I don't understand the reference to the father's suits, both to him and the bums.  The reference to the bums' white slug bodies doesn't make sense either.

Asked on by finch

1 Answer | Add Yours

dymatsuoka's profile pic

dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The tone of the poem is extremely bitter, and the speaker clearly hates her father. Although she seems to be sympathetic towards her mother, there is an element of bitterness towards her as well, because it is her mother who taught her "to take it, to hate (her father) and take it." The two images of suits, the first "dark carcasses hung in (the) closet" and the second the filthy "suits of compressed silt" worn by the bums, contrast what the speaker's father was and what he became for her in her hatred. The speaker's father was a businessman, and the suits that represented his profession also stood for his coldness, corruption, and abuse - they were "carcasses." The suits that the bums wore, disintegrating and disgusting, like the gross, ruined bodies within them, represent the result of the speaker's hate - her father's "annihilation," at least in her mind. It is not clear whether the speaker's father really ended up as a bum, or whether the reference is figurative, but the point of the poem is the destructive property of the hate which results from years of silent acceptance of abuse. The father, either in reality or in essence, is reduced to degradation, and the speaker too is corrupted by her own hate, forced to suppress her rage until all love and tenderness was destroyed, and she was left with nothing but the rotting image of the father she has learned to despise.

We’ve answered 318,916 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question