Rites of Passage

This paper discusses Sharon Olds’ poem, Rites of Passage, which describes the way society conditions young girls and boys to behave in a manner befitting their gender.

This paper relates that, in this poem, Olds is surprised to see that boys, from a very young age, are aggressive in nature and therefore love playing generals and soldiers. The author points out that the tone of the poem is ironic in the sense that, while on the surface it seams to be celebrating the birthday of first-grade child, on closer study, it contains heavy undertones. The paper stresses that the reason boys’ behavior and their psyche are seen as the actual themes of the poem is because Olds hardly mentions anything else. There are no descriptions of the location or dresses the guests are wearing.
“For example, all the six years olds in this poem behave in the same manner with everyone ready and willing to fight with others. There seems to be little compassion or empathy between the boys as they gear up for a “brawl”. This is quite different from the behavior we would expect from a group of young girls. Not only would most of them be gathering around their dolls, they would also show little interest in waging a war against younger children. On the other hand, children in this party are looking for their potential victims and all younger kids are considered prime targets.”