The Victim’s Struggle Against Patriarchal Norms


In exploring the themes and ideas presented in Sharon Olds’ literary work “The Victims,” the audience is exposed to a deeply evocative and moving rendition of the impact of separation on a family unit. The author’s use of feminist criticism, deconstruction, narrative, and structuralism all play a role in portraying the aftermath of a marital dissolution with exactitude and poignancy.

Critical Approaches

Through the narrative approach, the poet can express intricate emotions and ideas via the daughter’s viewpoint, rendering the experience all the more impactful for the reader. With this method, readers are given a chance to empathize with the daughter and acknowledge the consequences of her parent’s separation. Themes woven into the poet’s work include resilience, loss, and abandonment, with a unique approach of utilizing the daughter’s perspective to attain this (Fidyk, 2023). The homeless men observed on the street are the daughter’s inspiration for parallels drawn between her experiences and theirs as less fortunate members of society. This shared empathy creates a sense of understanding and broadens the reader’s awareness that the daughter’s struggles are not individualistic but are relatable to many.

Furthermore, utilizing the narrative structure enables the poet to develop a perception of apprehension and insecurity as the daughter contends with her parent’s divorce. The daughter’s future and ability to overcome obstacles leave the reader questioning. Investing readers in the daughter’s journey draws them into the poem emotionally, creating a sense of investment (Yang & Reynolds, 2022). The daughter’s perspective effectively conveys intricate emotions and ideas through a narrative approach employed by poets. The poet utilizes an approach that offers readers a rich and absorbing experience through this method. The daughter’s perspective allows the reader to witness the world and grasp how impactful her parent’s divorce was on her life.

The application of deconstruction as a critical approach can aid in analyzing this poem. By examining the underlying assumptions, biases, and contradictions present in a text’s language and narrative through the deconstructionist approach, we can analyze it effectively. It is clear from how she describes him in “The Victims” that the daughter feels resentful and angry towards her father. She describes him as a dark carcass and mentions that his shoes have large pores, indicating her disgust or revulsion towards him. Living in a patriarchal society has influenced the daughter’s language. Society expects men to display qualities of strength and achievement. Departures from these expectations are typically received with scornful disapproval (Mueller, 2021). The critical approach of structuralism can also be applied to analyze this poem. To analyze a text, structuralism looks at the underlying structures and systems of meaning that create its coherence and shape.

A reflection of a hierarchical power dynamic between a father and his family is evident in The Victims’ poem’s structure. The remainder of the family is shown as passive victims subjected to his abuse and disregard (Fidyk, 2023). In comparison, the father is presented as a potent personality who has accomplished much in his job and possesses an air of entitlement. In addition, it illustrates the father’s collapse as a means of gratification and enjoyment for the other relatives.

An important critical approach that can be used to analyze this poem is feminist criticism. The analysis of a text through examining its portrayal and reinforcement of gender roles and power relations is sought by feminist criticism. The daughter’s response towards her father in The Victims could be seen as an answer to the patriarchal setting she is situated within. In this narrative, we see that the father holds authority owing to his thriving profession; contrastingly, we observe that both the mother & kids become passive recipients of his cruelty & lack of care (Yang & Reynolds, 2022). It can be concluded that the daughter rejects traditional gender roles based on her resentment toward her father. Power and authority over women and children are assigned to men through these roles.


In conclusion, the feminist analysis aims at revealing the implicit prejudices and assumptions about gender that shape the literary piece. The daughter’s perspective in The Victims challenges the dominant patriarchal discourse that normalizes male dominance and female subordination. Gendered violence and oppression commonly experienced by women and children in the family setting are revealed by the poem (Mueller, 2021). Power dynamics and traditional gender roles in families can lead to emotional and physical harm. In addition, marginalized or powerless individuals are particularly affected by this harm. The rebellion exhibited by the daughter towards her father’s authority can be seen as a form of resistance and empowerment for herself. In addition, she endeavors to declare her autonomy and confront the repressive gender standards imposed on her through a feminist viewpoint.


Fidyk, A. (2023). Rehabilitation of Imagination for Renewing Group Life. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion20(2), 163–181.

Mueller, L. (2021). Do Americans really support black athletes who kneel during the national anthem? estimating the true prevalence and strength of sensitive racial attitudes in the context of Sport. Communication & Sport10(6), 1070–1091.

Yang, S., & Reynolds, B. L. (2022). “even I can do it”: Chinese Ethnolinguistic Minority Learners’ investment in creative writing and its impact. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics45(3), 340–359.

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