How would you explain the last stanza in "The Average" by W. H. Auden?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The poem "The Average", by W. H. Auden, depicts the sad story of a boy who was raised up by his parents to be more than they were. Lost and having failed to find the success his parents desired for him, the "shy and country child" suddenly realizes that he will not be able to find a "smart profession" and "grow rich."

In the last stanza, the boy suddenly realizes that he can never escape his shadow. The shadow represents who he really is. No matter what, a person can never escape their shadow.

Therefore, the last stanza shows the boy's recognition that he will always be average, no matter how fast he runs. Not finding himself worthy, "no sensible career was good enough, / Only a hero could deserve such love," he tries to outrun the fact. Unfortunately, the boy's understanding, that he is who he is, far outweighs the fact that he will not be able to live up to the expectations set forth by his parents.


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