Ai Ogawa: Poems

Gender Confines and Growing Up: Exploring Sexual Identity in Ai’s “The Kid” College

Since its publication in 1978, Ai’s thirty-two-line dramatic monologue poem “The Kid” has shocked and intrigued readers with its brutal subject matter of a murdered family. Within the poem, the speaker, who identifies himself as a fourteen-year-old boy, methodically annihilates his family, which consists of his father, mother, sister, and their horses. On the surface, one could argue that the boy is triggered by an event that drives him mad—possibly his “old man” yelling for him to “help hitch the team”, (Ai 5) or his sister rubbing her “doll’s face in the mud,” (1). However, there is no one clear answer to the boy’s mania that results in his killing spree, therefore the boy must not simply be crazy, but rather he finally snaps from the lifelong tormenting executed by his small-minded, abusive, and arguably homophobic family. As opposed to madness, evidence throughout the poem illuminates the juxtaposition between the boy’s masculinity and femininity and how there is tension between anything that is not properly within its own gender confines. Through a psychoanalytical reading of the poem, one could argue that the boy suffers from the Oedipal Complex, in which he greatly admires his mother, identifies with her, and in a sense,...

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