Rites of Passage

Need help with my writing homework on Psychoanalytic Literary Analysis of Rites of Passage. Write a 750 word paper answering; Rites of Passage is a poem written by Sharon Olds that can be effectively examined by this technique. On the surface, the poem speaks of six and seven year old boys attending the birthday party of the writer’s son. These boys are beginning to show many of the aspects of adult men. However, evaluating the text from a psychoanalytic standpoint shows underlying themes of hostility, problems letting go of the writer’s son and a lack of closure. One theme that emerges as part of Rites of Passage is hostility. Although the young boys are presented as innocent and simply growing up, the author appears to show a certain level of anger towards what these boys will become. The phrase “the dark cake, round and heavy as a turret” is one example of this. This cake is an interesting aspect of the poem, as it is mentioned only once, and does not seem fully relevant to the rest of the poem, which is focused on the boys themselves. The cake appears to be an item of war and of hostility by the use of the term turret, as well as the dullness of its description. No information is given about what type of cake it is or any other aspects of its appearance, suggesting that this was not relevant to the writer. This concept of war is further developed later in the poem, with the description of the boys clearing their throats as generals would, and of them playing war. This theme suggests that the author is uncomfortable with the concept of her son growing up, in particular of the type of man that he might grow to become. One interpretation is that the writer has had negative experiences with violent men in her past and is afraid that one day her son will become one of these. A second theme that can be observed through a psychoanalytical approach to this poem is that the writer is having a difficult time letting go of her son. She spends a portion of the poem describing his physical appearance, including the freckles on his cheeks, his narrow chest and long hands. The first of these aspects is highly affectionate, suggesting a deep love for her son. However, the second and third appear to be more reserved and analytical. She compares the boy’s chest to the keel of a balsa-wood boat, a form of wood that is fragile and light. The consideration of him like a boat also suggests that he is moving away from her, into open waters. Finally, the third description focuses on the boy’s hands, and also of the day that the boy was “guided” out of her when she gave birth to him. The use of this term suggests a deep sense that the boy is still being guided away from her. Coupled with the hostility theme, this could indicate that the writer feels her son is being pulled away from her to be a man that she does not want him to be. Despite the progression of the poem, there is no evidence of closure. The author does not resolve any of the issues with her son leaving or his growing up, giving the impression that she does not feel there is any alternative to letting him grow as he will. Using psychoanalytic literary analysis techniques on the poem Rites of Passage reveals potential underlying emotions that the author had on events described in the text.

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