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The poem “I go back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds is a reflection of the author’s parents’ former years when they were young and innocent. The poem illustrates the transformation that takes place in a young couple’s life at a time when both of them know very little about the reality of life. Olds captures the experiences that a teenage male and female are bound to have when they first encounter each other. She shows us the admiration that develops between the two lovers and the resultant lifetime bond from their sexual union. In this regard, Olds mainly focuses on the innocence, naivety, and infatuation, which are common experiences among young people when they have their first relationship.
First, there is a strong element of innocence captured by Olds in her poem. After reading the poem, I had a flash back of the first time I got into a relationship. Olds says “his pitiful beautiful untouched body”. This line illustrates how at one point in time, every adult had to pass through this development stage. It makes me recollect memories of days when I was innocent and I did not have the slightest knowledge of what my expectations were in life. During this time, I was filled with anxiety regarding what life had in store for me. Even though I owned the key to my life, there are times when someone else used that key to show me new things. In essence, my innocence gave me the free will to do what I felt was right at the time, but it did not give me the free will to choose what was right.
Secondly, Olds shows us that very few people can actually admit to having been naïve at one point in their life. Right from the time we are born, the society moulds us to become perfect beings. This perfection makes us to think that we are capable of making the right decisions at all times. Nevertheless, the confidence we exude is merely a cover up of the fear lurking behind us. Olds is trying to warn members of the younger generation that a time will come when they will wish they would rewind back the years to recover what was lost. Indeed, some of the decisions that we make at a young age are never right. We end up landing in avoidable pitfalls then start regretting that it should never have happened.
Thirdly, Olds brings the feeling infatuation into light. Any married man or woman can attest to the feeling of infatuation at the time each met his/her first love. They can admit to the promises that they made to their partner and how they crossed their hearts never to disappoint one another. However, when reality sets in, they soon realize that the promises were just a virtual reality. Olds reaffirms “I want to go up to them and say stop”. In real sense, they were only physically drawn to each other with an aim of having a feel of what the real experience felt like. In the end, their hearts are filled regrets; consequently, leaving a permanent mark that will serve as a reminder.
Finally, Olds achieves her aim of showing the reader the feelings of innocence, naivety and infatuation. Through her poem, she is able to make the reader to empathize about her flash back. Indeed, being young is a good thing because it comes with unique experiences. However, it is the sole duty of adults to guide young people during their early years so that they can avoid falling into avoidable pitfalls.