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THE ADVERSITY OF WOMEN LIVES

Yu-jou Lee (Lowh)

The Adversity of Women Lives
A Society is where human beings live together in one vast community. It consisted of
varieties of cultures and lifestyles. However, in reality, a society may not be as beautiful as
many people may believe it is. The reason is because there are countless social problems that
occur in every day. The inequalities among the people, such as social classes, opportunities,
and genders are some of the most concerning issues in the society. A dominant culture exists
in every part of the society although it changes among social classes, it creates numbers of
conflict and separate people into classes. Thus, it leads to the inequalities in the opportunities
of their careers. Genders inequality is considered as one of the major concerns that effects
and destroyed many parts of the society. There are many poets who want to examine how
genders inequality occurs in people's community. Sharon Olds was one of the children who
faced difficulties with her family, and this also affected her very own family life. Therefore,
she determined to write her own experience into her poems in order express and release
women’s emotions (Academy of American Poets, n.d.). Elizabeth Bishop’s writing was
influenced from many essential factors such as traveling, love life, and family. When she was
young, she lived with her grandparents with the lack of warmth from her family members
(Colwell A., 2000). Bishop became a famous feminist due to the contents in her poems. At
that time she decided to write poems about feminism by comparing men and women instead
of focusing on her own life or experience like other poets in that time. Both of these poets are
women who want to reveal the perception of feminist to the society. In “Still Life In
Landscape” and “My Son The Man” Olds experiences suffering from her interactions with
men; alternately, in “The Fish,” Bishop informs that every gender is equal.
In “Still Life In Landscape”, Olds illustrated how women lives were being crushed
and controlled by men. One of the problems that she had been opposed with was her abusive

THE ADVERSITY OF WOMEN LIVES

Yu-jou Lee (Lowh)

childhood life; she had to deal with her alcoholic father (Dillingham T. F., n.d.). This issue
show in many poems and one of it was presented in “Still Life In Landscape”. The period of
time in the poem was during the night in the car while her family is heading to some places.
However, on the way they met with the unexpected accident at the side of the roadway. They
saw “pieces of cars” and “a woman was laying on the highway” (1,3). Olds writes :
“My mother grabbed my head and turned it and
clamped it into her chest, between
her breasts. My father was driving—not sober
but not in this accident,” (11-14).
This indicates that she has to handle with her cold-hearted father, and was not showing any
care. On the other hand, her mother was caring for her, and tried to protect and prevent her
from looking back at the accident on the road. Additionally, the story imitated how the father,
who is the driver has power over his family’s lives. Since he is the driver, his wife and
daughter’s lives depend on his actions and his subconscious minds. Nevertheless, Olds
mentions woman for several times, Olds states, “she was a model of the mortal,” (24) Olds is
using the woman as a symbol to represents as the model of every woman in the society to
shows that they are being oppressed by man. This demonstrates how in Olds’ reality women
lives are under man control.
In “My Son The Man”, Olds feels displeasure that her son will one day be part of the
system that abuses women. Since Olds was young she has to encounter with the diversity of
family issues, and these factors keep continues to her personal family lives of two children
and a husband who work as a doctor. After 32 years of marriage, she ends up by divorced
with her husband because he left her and her children to spend his life with the mistress
(Sharon Olds interview with Evening Standard, personal communication, 2003). Many of her

THE ADVERSITY OF WOMEN LIVES

Yu-jou Lee (Lowh)

poems were writing about her ex-husband who enjoying with his new love, and some of the
poems were talking about her children. “My Son The Man” is one of the poems that she
mentioned the story about her son who going to become a fully man soon. Olds explains,
“Suddenly his shoulders get a lot wider, / the way Houdini would expand his body / while
people were putting him in chains” (1-3). This implies that her son is now transformed into a
man who wants to escape from his old body that had been chained for a long time which
same as “Houdini”. This can also mean that he is ready to live by himself. In additions, Olds
reveals, “Now he looks at me / the way Houdini studied a box / to learn the way out, then
smiled and let himself be manacled” (14-16). This admits that her son was changed into a
different person from a person who Olds know before; oppositely, her son saw her as an
obstacles that block his way from growing up as a man that are fulfilled with freedom lives.
In the end, Olds cannot stop her son to growth up as a man, and can only see him to be
“manacled” by the systems that he longing to. This proves that in one day every boy will
have to growth up into a man system.
In “The Fish”, Bishop emphasizes that women and men are quite similar to each
other. Bishop also known as a sacrificial feminism because of her performance. Once in her
life she got offers to be in the anthology book that is full of famous male poets, but she
determines to deny that offer; she describes, “she didn’t want to act as the book’s ‘sex-appeal’
” (Columbia Journal, 2011). Furthermore, her style of writing is unique and distinctive which
are completely different from other poets in those days. Most of her poem ideas are telling
the society that men and women are actually comparable. “The Fish” is one of the poems that
Bishop want to convey this idea. Bishop points out, “I admired his sullen face” (45). This
illustrates how she admired and respected the fish not by the appearance that looks grisly but
by the age and experience that fish comprise. Bishop even compares the fish with the

THE ADVERSITY OF WOMEN LIVES

Yu-jou Lee (Lowh)

“medals with their ribbons” (61) that can represent a knowledge of human. “I looked into his
eyes / which were far larger than mine” (34-35). The eyes are the first attraction that people
have to look while they communicate to each other; hence, it’s become one of the symbols
that represent the knowledge and wisdom. When Bishop said, “far larger than mine” this
sentence imitates how Bishop expresses that the male fish has more knowledge than herself.
Besides, the eyes also mean as a reflection of personality. Therefore, this indicates that
Bishop saw the male fish as herself by looking into the fish eyes. In the end of the poem she
releases the fish back into the sea because she saw that every life are equal and worthy to be
alive. Consequently, it proves that how in Bishop’s perspective both genders are considered
to be identical.
In Conclusion, Olds and Bishop have a similarity of their ideas about feminism yet
they have the different point of view on gender equality. Olds expresses the ideas of feminism
directly by using her own real experiences from what she has been encounter with.
Alternately, Bishop reveals to the society that every gender is considered to be similar and
equal. In “Still Life In Landscape,” Olds illustrates the idea about the oppression between
male and female by using the real life situation as tools to convey the story to the reader.
Another poem of Olds, in “My Son The Man” informs how her son is growing up and effort
hard to be in the men society, still she fails from cease him be in that system. On the other
hand, in the poem “The Fish”, Bishop used many remarkable symbols to support and
demonstrate the fish as a wise and respectful person, which she compare herself similar to the
fish. Anyway, in the end, both of the poets are having the same point of expands the feminist
inequality problems in the society through their own poems by their own styles. As a
consequence, it was a success for making the society become more concern about this issues
that has been existing since the ancient times.

Yu-jou Lee (Lowh)

THE ADVERSITY OF WOMEN LIVES
References
Academy of American Poets, (n.d.). Sharon Olds.
Retrieved from https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/sharon-olds
Anne Agnes Colwell, (2002). About Elizabeth Bishop.

Retrieved from http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/bishop/about.htm
Columbia Journal, (2011). Elizabeth Bishop and the F Word.
Retrieved from http://columbiajournal.org/elizabeth-bishop-and-the-f-word/
Evening Standard, (personal communication, 2003).
Retrieved from http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/sharon-olds-myhusband-left-me-after-32-years-but-i-refuse-to-be-a-victim-8455264.html
Thomas F. Dillingham, (n.d.). About Sharon Olds.
Retrieved from http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/olds/about.htm