“Rite of Passage” is a poem written by Sharon Olds
“Rite of Passage” is a poem written by Sharon Olds. Olds is an American, award-winning poet and has written many poems and books during her lifetime. The poem I will be analyzing is “Rite of Passage.” This poem talks about what happens during a ritual that takes place when a boy hits the age of puberty. The narrator’s son was the one going through puberty and he was the one the ceremony was put on for. The son was going through a lot of changes and the narrator was curious about what trials he would face. The narrator noticed that a lot of the boys were trying to sound dominant and violent toward one another. For example, at some point during the poem, the author mentioned that each kid would try to belittle the other in their eyes. Olds says, “they eye each other, seeing themselves tiny in the other’s pupils.” (Olds, 9) The narrator mentions that the boys are physical with each other and even at times threaten one another. This poem applies different themes and different elements.
One of the biggest literary devices in this text is imagery. Imagery is defined as “the literary term used for language and description that appeals to our five senses.” There are numerous times the poem gives examples of imagery. Throughout most of the text, the narrator notices that the son and his friends try to act tough around each other. They are constantly trying to fight over who is bolder and more masculine by showing off some of their characteristics. In the test, Olds mentions that “the other men agree, they clear their throats like Generals” (Olds, 25) everytime the son talks on behalf of the group. The part that surprised me the most was when the son spoke up and said: “we could easily kill a two-year-old.” (Olds, 22) This shows that the language they use and what they do is based mainly on trying to be dominant and bold. That is some of the examples of imagery used in this text.
Another one of the biggest literary devices used in this poem is good diction. Diction can be defined as the words that you use to write to further explain your understanding. Sharon Olds’ poem can be characterized as an informal way of using words. She uses words that showcases her originality. Many of the poems I have read previously are quite different from this one. This poem uses a lot of informal word choices. For example, when the author is explaining the descriptions of the son and his friends, she uses simile and metaphor. A simile is a comparison of one thing to another thing using words such as: like, as, than and many others. A metaphor is another way of comparing but it is not using any specific words as simile does. In this specific poem, she compares the freckles of the son to be like “specks of nutmeg on his cheeks.” She also uses metaphor in general when she is comparing these young boys to generals and men. Throughout the poem, Sharon Olds uses many examples of simile and that is one of the many ways this poem has good diction.
The last literary device of this poem I would like to talk about is motif or symbol. A motif is quite similar to a theme but they have some differences. A motif is “an object that repeats itself throughout a literary work.” An example of a motif is how the author repeats several times that the son and his friends at the party are trying to act tough. At one time during the poem, Sharon described the narrator’s son to be a fragile little kid that spoke on behalf of the group. He stood up and said, “we could easily kill a two-year-old.” (Old, 22) That is a good example of motif because, throughout the text, there are many other incidents where the boy tries to act tough as he did then. The main example of a motif that is repeating is the boys who try to act dominant and bold. An example of a symbol used in this poem is the ritual for the celebration of a boy hitting the age of puberty. This is a good example of a symbol because some cultures celebrate boys when they enter puberty. All in all, this poem shows a significant portion of motifs and symbols.
In conclusion, this poem was very intriguing to me because of how much I can relate to it. I live in a family of just boys and I understand the narrator’s perspective. My siblings will fight over who is more masculine or who is more strong. There are quite a few literary devices used in this poem but I only mentioned the main important ones. Overall, I enjoyed reading this poem and finding ways I could interpret it in my daily life.