Most Hated Father In the book, "The Living and The Dead," by Sharon Olds the author makes writes poems about her view on images of life and death and what she associates each with. This anthology seems to be mostly influenced by her family, from her hated father and grandfather, to her growing children. Olds finds inspiration to associate life and death with her relatives. In "The Living and The Dead" Sharon Olds breaks the book into sections, starting first with a section on the dead, with subsections on public and family poems. In the public section one poem that stood out to me was entitled "The Death of Marilyn Monroe," for it embodied everything about the woman that I have ever heard about her. Miss Monroe is spoken of by men from her time as being an angel, and otherworldly, and this poem shows the effect that her dead body had on two men who removed her body.
In the poem, the men are not sad that Marilyn Monroe is dead, but they are in awe that they got to see her beauty right before their eyes. It affected these men for the rest of their lives, so much so that other women, living women still could not equal her to them. No one could match her to them. The main characters of the poems in this book come from, presumably the authors family.
In the section on the Dead, Olds writes several poems; "The Guild,"The Eye," and "All The Dead That Have Come to Me, This Once" about how she hated her grandfather. "The Guild" tells of her memories of her father as a young college man sitting by the fire with his father, drinking their drinks, and sharing secrets of life. The poem is laced with a strong resentment for her grandfather, basically blaming him for the way that her father would later treat her. She calls her father an apprentice, one who is learning the ways, as she says "of oblivion", on how to be a cruel person from his father. The Guild is in a sense the passage of knowledge from one man, a father t another man, a son." The Eye" is almost a follow-up to "The Guild," because it is about the speakers grandfather, the man the speaker loathes.
The title refers to the fact that the grandfather has a glass eye (stated in both "The Guild" and "The Eye"). She sees her grandfather as a heartless man, one whom her father would adopt his awful ways. Her grandfather had no problem with putting an empty plate in front of a child for dinner, he would turn the lights out on the children when they would try to read, etc. She talks about how she pictured him at night, asleep with his wife, with one eye open, just a black void projected from him of evil. The image of the glass eye and of him being a bad man may be a parallel on the belief in the evil eye. It is believed by some that people who have been disfigured can be marked by the evil eye, and are capable of evil things, including being a cruel person.
The fact that he has a glass eye in some way means that he is disfigured, and that when he sleeps he just has a blank stare suggest something is wrong. The last poem in this trilogy of hatred for her grandfather the speaker is telling of how she hopes that her grandfather is dead. The speaker states that she has never wished for anyone to be dead, but when news came to her that something had happened to her grandfather, she wished that he were indeed gone. She thought of some of the awful things that he had done to her. These three poems do not follow any particular form; they do not rhyme, and they dont have any set structure (stanzas, line breaks, etc. ), they are just narratives on her feelings towards her grandfather.
Her children inspire several of the poems in the section on the living, and all are written with a very clear pride in them. "Rite of Passage" is about her son having a birthday party. Building off of the idea of men being men she talks of her little son and his friends as being little generals, small bankers, acting all big and boastful with each other. His rite of passage is that of becoming and acting like a man. Her son is the thinking one in the group of six and seven year olds. While they are all fighting with each other over who can beat up who, her son ends the fight by bringing up something that all of them can agree on, calling their attention to a common enemy, two-year olds.
He is in charge of his troops. In "Pre-Adolescent in Spring" Olds writes about her daughter as a girl before she starts to become a woman. Her daughter is sucking on ice cubes in the warm springtime weather melting it in her mouth as her mother describes all that is about to happen to her daughter (this is done as a narrator) and the melting ice cube is symbolic of what is going on inside her daughter. She has been frozen, but is about to melt and break out. This is a play on the idea of a non-sexual woman as being frozen, and of a sexual woman as being hot.
In her book, "The Living and the Dead" Sharon Olds writes about her family, who are either living or now dead or is associated as one or the other by her. From her grandparents, she draws on death, and on her children she draws on life. That is that the life cycle goes, old = death, young = life, vibrancy. 334.