Sharon Olds’ “My Son the Man” unfolds the complex tapestry of emotions a mother navigates as she witnesses her son’s inevitable journey into manhood. This poem captures the universal struggle of letting go, juxtaposed with the pride and fear that comes with watching a child assume the mantle of adulthood. Through this analysis, we dive deep into the heart of Olds’ work, unraveling the poignant themes of growth, change, and the bittersweet nature of parental love.

Sharon Olds’ poem, My Son the Man, is alluding the investable process of the son growing to Houdini, a magician well known for freeing himself either in deep water, sealed in a padlock or being chained. Sharon explicates the significance of the son growing and being able to freely practice what he is good at. This is done by using visual imagery within the poem.

By alluding to Houdini, Olds contributes to the fact that the son will have to mature from the son and become a man.

In order to communicate complex meaning, Olds makes use of allusions through simple comparison, she states, “Suddenly his should get a lot wider, / the way Houdini would expand his body” (1-2). Because Houdini is an escape artist, the allusion symbolizes the son’s development as regards to foreseeable future transformations. Olds, however, responds to the above adjustment. In spite of this foreseeable future, Olds holds back to the fact that the son will transform to a man. She feels uneasy about this transformation to adulthood but has to accept the reality and ease her uneasiness. Her sense of apprehension can be noted when she says, “I cannot imagine him / no longer a child, and I know I must get ready, / get over my fear of men now my son is going to be one” (7-10). By alluding that “Houdini expand his body” (2), this justifies the inevitable process of the son growing to an adult as she finally expresses fear that the son may escape from her forever “Now he looks at me / the way Houdini studied a box / to learn the way out” (14-16).

The poem is about a mother who fears that her son is growing and will soon become a man from being a son. She alludes this to a well-known magician, Houdini, who roams freely and cannot be chained nor thrown into the river because he will be free always.

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