The text under consideration is “Sex without Love” by a well-known American poetess Sharon Olds who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. This is a short poem that is devoted to the notions of love and sex. This paper focuses on the analysis of the theme of the poem. The theme is disclosed through the conflict between the ideas of feeling love and making love.
Sharon Olds uses the poem to dispraise, to say figuratively, “hollow love”, which is the love for the sake of personal pleasure with no feelings involved. She manages to render her thoughts with the help of various linguistics means, which have a great impact on the audience.
The sex is a pressing and disturbing topic for the present time when old and well-established believes contradict with modern views of the free relations with no strings attached. The author manifests her disdain for sex that does not come from love, but brings degradation into the world. We consider this poem to be a specific form of communication that expresses the utter contempt for sex without love.
A poem is written in indirect speech. The author describes the situation in non-personal way. It is important that the writer does not present his characters to the reader, but simply refers to them by the pronouns “they”, “the ones”, and “each other”. There are no names and descriptions of the looks. This gives an opportunity to a reader to interpret people in the poem as a common stereotype. To a great extend this determines the negative attitude of the author towards the concept of sex without love and people who live by this certain pattern of behavior.
The style of fiction enables the author to use a wealth of syntactical expressive means along with lexical expressive means, because it plays a major role in making readers understand the author’s point. To determine how the theme is established we should take into consideration a few linguistic factors.
Among the syntactical expressive means the general character of sentences is important. The poem is written in long and composite sentences with the number of attributes. The piece of writing begins with the question. One question precedes another. The author addresses her readers in disbelief and astonishment: “how do they..?” (Olds 24). A repetition of the questions lends an unpleasant emotion of frustration. The emphasis in the poem is also attained by the reiteration of the phrase “they come to the come to the come…”(Olds 24).
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We find the following figures of speech in the poem: epithets, similes, and metaphors. Epithets create a sensory perception in a poem. Such attributes as red, wet, ice describe author’s non-appraisal position and convey the disguise at making love, just like some animals make. This is despised by Sharon Olds.
Figurative language in the poem is an abundant source for expressing thoughts and ideas. In order to proclaim thoughts similes are used. Simile is a figurative of speech that creates an explicit comparison between two different objects (Crystal 70). Simile expresses perception of the likeness.
The writer says that the people who make love are beautiful and compares them to dancers. She describes their red faces as ones which resemble steak. The culmination of the poem is established in the simile with the deep implicit meaning: “wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away” (Olds 24). The strong comparison with the children which are not wanted by their mothers makes readers think of the most tragic and sad feeling. To embrace this idea is to understand the suffering of people who are unwanted. It is the pain people feel without love, when all the pleasure is gone.
A few metaphors are used in the poem. Metaphor is a figure of speech and a means of conveying emotions. It transfers the meaning of one thing into another on the basis of analogy.
Metaphor is used as a mechanism of description of the way people experience love. The writer reproduces the feeling of being close to each other by saying about fingers, which are hooked inside bodies. She wanted to show that the pure love is gentle and fragile, while making love without love is aggressive and cruel. The sense of touch is shown with brutality, which leads the audience to see nothing pleasant in it. This stresses the point that sex without love destroys people deeply inside.
The message of the poem finds it particularization in its tone, imagery and symbolism. It should be mentioned that the tone of this literary work is moralizing.
The author shows her attitude from the religious point of view. She uses religion in order to demonstrate what is pure and what is wrong. This leads to the discovering of the conflict between a person and himself, or herself. The wild instincts to satisfy the body, which are deprived of love, are highly dispraised by Sharon Olds. It is one of the ways to develop the theme in the poem: one can not make love, because this way one makes a mistake. Love is a feeling and the truth.
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Imagery is based on associations aroused by a particular choice of words, or expressions the author uses. Some images of the poem are concrete and visual. It is “the cold”, “the wind” that leave the nasty impression which is presented in mind. Throughout the phrase “the over-all cardiovascular health” the writer points out factors of making love (Olds 24). They mean nothing, because the relationship of the kind to-have-a-partner-in-bed do not give a feeling of everlasting happiness, but simple pleasure.
There is no ambiguity in the text, because the author is determined to reveal the established theme. She identifies the process of making love without love as an outrageous thing to do. Olds stress the idea by adding God among the lines of the poem. God is the higher power that stands for the greatest love. The writer uses God as a strong symbol and a mechanism of the influence and persuading the readers. This symbol has its meaning inside and outside of the poem. A person can not be further from God and His love, when he or she is on the run after pleasure.
We can find in the text a plea to be conscious of what we do. The thought of “God’s love” impels people to live as Christians should live. Olds send a message to have good morals.
The high volume of emotional coloring helps to convey the main message of the poem. It makes possible for the audience to feel the tension of the given piece of writing. The denouement underlines the bitterness of the whole situation of making love without love. In the last lines of the text the author wants to say that when the two people do not share love, than in the most intense minutes of life, they are the loneliest creatures in the universe. Sharon Olds writes about the single body, but not about soul. This is because sex does not the soul as it is the domain of love. When there is no love the soul is empty.
There is an interesting symbol of stillness. The writer suggests the idea that to feel love means to live and to move. Making love without love stands for inertness and completely passive existence without moving forward. This is illustrated in the line “… come to the still waters…” (Olds 24). Water is a symbol of purification and this continues the religious aspect in the poem. It is known, that still water becomes dirty with time. This is what happens when a person gets stuck in his or her miserable actions and unworthy behavior.
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A title of the poem is an important issue of conveying the theme. Though, the title is “Sex without Love”, the word “sex” is not mentioned in the text. The phrase “make love” implies sex. It also identifies the specific relations people have, their life style and ambitions. People want to be free and to enjoy themselves, but this desire imprisons them in their sins. This idea is shown by the means of an antithesis. It is built on the contrast which is the expression “to make love without love”.
The writer created a poem that is a mirror of out society. This reflection shows us how low we have fallen in the attempt to gain pleasure. The analysis of the poem shows that the theme is well developed.
The choice of vocabulary and sentence patterns clearly illustrates the negative attitude of Sharon Olds towards sex without love. She says that sex for the sex’ sake is insufferable. It is the illusion of pleasure that people have when they make love, while they destroy themselves instead. In the begging of the poem the author asks questions and the answers have to be find inside of ourselves. In the end the readers should understand that love is a divine feeling that can not be made.