In the poem, “35/10” by Sharon Olds, the speaker uses wistful and jealous tones to convey her feeling about her daughter’s coming of age. The speaker, a thirty-five year old woman, realizes that as the door to womanhood is opening for her ten year old daughter, it is starting to close for her. A wistful tone is used when the speaker calls herself, “the silver-haired servant” (4) behind her daughter, indicating that she wishes she was not the servant, but the served. Referring to herself as her daughter’s servant indicates a sense of self-awareness in the speaker. She senses her power is weakening and her daughter’s power is strengthening. It also shows wistfulness for her diminishing youth, and sadness for her advancing years. This wistful tone is again shown when she asks, “Why is it /they begin to arrive, the fold in my neck /clarifying as the fine bones ...view middle of the document...
The jealous tone disappears at the end, however, and the poem ends wistfully and resigned stating that, “It’s an old/story—the oldest we have on our planet--/the story of replacement” (16-18). The speaker realizes that aging is part of the continuous life process, which starts at birth and ends at death. She understands that each phase of life has a specific purpose for maintaining the species. Her daughter must mature so she can create new life, just as the speaker did ten years ago. She knows that eventually her daughter will replace her and that the life process will continue to repeat itself for generations to come.
The imagery in the poem “35/10” also conveys the speaker’s wistfulness and jealousy for her daughter’s youth. The speaker describes her daughter as, “a moist/ precise flower on the tip of a cactus” (9-10) while she says, “my skin shows/ its dry pitting” (8-9). These phrases paint an image of the daughter as blooming and new, whereas the speaker is wilting and used. The word moist is associated with youthfulness and the word dry is associated with old age. The speaker’s use of the contrasting words moist and dry also allows the reader to use visual and tactile senses to picture the physical differences between the daughter and the speaker. Another use of imagery is when the speaker describes her own hair as, “silver-haired” (4) and her daughter’s as, “brown/silken hair” (1-2). This simple use of color emphasizes the difference between daughter and speaker right from the start of the poem. The term silver-haired commonly depicts old age and the term brown silken commonly depicts youth.
The reader can easily visualize these colors and associate them with mental images of old age and youth. Both daughter and speaker are moving forward in their lives, with each of them experiencing physical changes. The speaker sees her daughter’s youthful, maturing image reflected “before the mirror” (2) and she realizes she’s approaching that point in her life when it will be her daughter’s turn to replace her.