One of my favorite poems that was in our poetry packet was sadly one that we didn't reserve time to analyze together as a class. After conversing in class with my beloved friend Patrick (aka P Shawn), he encouraged me to read "Rite of Passage" by Sharon Olds for that night's homework. Being a good friend I obliged him and analyzed it for homework. And since we were unable to talk about it as a class I would like to share my analysis of "Rite of Passage"
To start it all off lets begin with speaker, audience, and occasion. The speaker is a parental figure, possibly the mom of the kid, as she is thinking to herself, while she is supervising her son's birthday party. Now what is this poem about? Well, the title starts to lead the reader in the right direction, because rite of passage is a celebration for one who, in this case the young boys at the birthday party, moves from one position to another. In this case it is the boys turning into men. Through the rite of passage that Sharon Olds is addressing human nature destructive and violent tendencies through a young boy's birthday party. As the kids are walking into the house, the speaker describes them "with smooth jaws and chins" starting off with an innocent and somber tone. The tone suddenly flips when she alliterates, "jostling, jockeying for place, small fights/ breaking out and calming." This is where we get the first glimpse of the kids violent nature. The boys try to size themselves up to one another by comparing age, similar to adults who do the same thing rather than age they use their salaries or jobs to do this.
Now that the boy's true nature is apparent to the reader, the speaker then uses a metaphor by comparing her boy's birthday cake to a turret, giving the living room a war-zone feel to it. In doing this, the speaker is adding to the violent nature of human beings and how they can turn anything into a violent war-zone. The speaker then turns to her son, "freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks," This is the description of a innocent boy, how could he ever be as the other heathens in the room? "We could easily kill a two-year-old,/ he says in his clear voice." Suddenly the boy's innocence is gone, she continues to say "The other/ men agree, they clear their throats. like Generals, they relax and get down to/ playing war, celebrating my son's life." More war references add to the feeling that its human nature to be violent. This boy's birthday party is his rite of passage into the real world of violence, not where he is no longer that innocent nutmeg freckled boy but rather he is a human being.