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A Week Later’ by Sharon Olds Essay

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2019


A Week Later is a poem that addresses the relationship between family members. It also addresses the persona’s memory, and what this memory does to the feelings of the persona. The persona is in a conflict within herself about the happenings in her life. These things are central in the persona’s life since the people involved are those who have been close to her (persona).

This poem has an ambivalent mood, and the persona has different feelings about the same things. This is because she has experienced both the fine and the awful sides of the issues she is addressing. This makes the reader want to balance the feelings of the persona by using the things discussed in the poem. In this poem, the persona has ambivalent feelings about her experience, memory and relationships (Olds 54).

Speakers Ambivalent Relationship to Memory

The whole of this poem is a recount of the persona’s life. Her memory takes the reader through her life events, and how these events have shaped her life. The persona’s memory seems to be touching on the raw nerves of the persona, and the reader can feel with the persona (Olds 61). She presents conflicting ideas in the poem, and the reader is left at a fix of what to follow.

In the opening line in this poem, the persona says that she had disclosed to a friend that she (persona) was unlikely to write anything on a certain event in her life. However, she continues to say that she could write about the same thing in a year’s time. This shows ambivalence in her presentation of ideas. The reader wonders whether the persona could remember the event well after the year has already passed.

This is ambivalence since people remember things that took place recently better than those that happened long ago. The persona continues to say that she will write about that event sometime, but at the time the speaker is talking, the event is folded within her mind (Tanner 42).

The persona’s memory takes her back to the time they divorced with her husband, here; the ambivalent mood is also evident. They have already divorced with her husband, but the persona still refers to him as her husband. This state of affairs makes the poem to contain an ambivalent mood. The persona says that she was with her husband only two years ago, yet she still misses him.

The reader wonders why the persona uses the word only, yet she misses her husband after the two years. The persona is saying that her heart is ‘strictured’; this shows that she has not gotten over the loss of her husband. The persona remembers her husband; this memory affects her in that she feels broken-hearted by the loss.

The persona’s memory also takes the reader to the building in which they (persona and her husband) signed divorce papers. The ambivalence at this time is reflected by the personas memory. She remembers that the lobby was full of beauty, but still, it looked like a king’s tomb. The beauty of the lobby is juxtaposed with the sadness of the tomb. This makes the poem to contain an ambivalent mood.

The persona also remembers the time that she used to have with her husband. She remembers that, at that time, she used to know, touch, hear and see her husband. She thinks of life that her husband is leading, and she can not see, hear, know, or even touch him.

The persona remembers the time she used to care for her aged and ailing mother. She juxtaposes the hope that her love to her husband held, but in the recent days, that love had died. This reflects the ambivalent mood of the poem (Olds 87).

Speakers Ambivalent Relationship to Experience

The speaker has experienced some relationships that have turned soar and have died. The relationship that she has with her husband dies with their divorce. The husband is still alive, but they are no longer together since they are divorced.

The persona misses her husband, yet at some point, she says that she is glad that he (her husband) has married the one he feels is meant for him (Greenberg 117). There is an ambivalent relationship since, at one time, she has feelings for the man who used to be her husband, yet at other times she is happy that he is happily married to another woman.

The speaker also says that she saw the luck and luxury of the hour that her mother died. This is the opposite of the norm since one should be saddened by the death of someone he/she loves. However, she is kept strong by the love she has for her husband. This is because she has experienced love in her husband, but she has also experienced loss by the death of her mother.

At that time, the love the persona has for her husband supersedes the sadness that the persona has because of the ill health of her mother. The speaker loves her mother so much.

However, the speaker’s love for her husband is much greater, and it leads her through the loss of her mother. However, the ambivalence of this situation comes in when her husband divorces her, and she is unable to write anything for a very long time (Tanner 25).

The poem achieves its success in presenting the ambivalent nature of the persona’s relationships by giving a background of the persona’s life. The persona’s love life is introduced, and the reader relates to this by the events that take place in the persona’s life. This way, the reader sees the two sides of the relationships in which the persona is engaged.

Speakers Ambivalent Relationship to Relationships

The relationships between the persona herself, her husband, and her mother have ambivalence. The personas feelings are divided in that she wants to write something about her relationship with her husband, but she is unable to write. In fact, she says that she might be able to write about it in a year.

The relationship between the persona and her husband is also ambivalent. She has already divorced him, but she still feels much love for him. She regrets that, at some time, she could hold, touch, see and hear him, yet she can not do it now (Greenberg 143).

The persona should also have been close to her mother especially the time that she was ill, but even at this time; she is more attached to her husband. In fact, she describes her mother in some words that would appear socially offensive in reference to one’s mother. The contrast is that the speaker says that she could sing her (her mother) out with the love she has for her husband.


The poem has achieved in presenting the ambivalent relationships the speaker has to her memory, relationships, and experience in that it has presented the opposing ideals in the poem.

The reader can get to feel that the poem is leaning on opposing sides of the two issues and leaving the reader at a fix. However, the poem has addressed issues that happen in daily life of all people, and people can identify with the poem (Greenberg 171).

Works Cited

Greenberg, Arielle. Women poets on mentorship: efforts and affections Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2008. Print.

Tanner, Laura. Lost bodies: inhabiting the borders of life and death. New York: Cornell University Press, 2006. Print.

Olds, Sharon. Blood, tin, straw. Michigan: University of Michigan, 1999. Print.

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