Examine the effectiveness of key images in "The Average" by Auden.
The Average by W. H. Auden
His peasant parents killed themselves with toil
To let their darling leave a stingy soil
For any of those smart professions which
Encourage shallow breathing, and grow rich.
The pressure of their fond ambition made
Their shy and country-loving child afraid
No sensible career was good enough,
Only a hero could deserve such love.
So here he was without maps or supplies,
A hundred miles from any decent town;
The desert glared into his blood-shot eyes;
The silence roared displeasure: looking down,
He saw the shadow of an Average Man
Attempting the exceptional, and ran.
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I would say that the opening line of the poem is striking in its imagery. The struggle of "peasant parents" helps to affirm the idea that parents toil and persevere for the benefit of their children. Such an image opens the poem to being able to explore the condition of being that is so evident throughout it. The sacrifice of parents is the opening image of the poem that leaves the reader with a sense of wonder about what parents do and what should be done. The idea of a "stingy soil" helps to convey the magnitude of their struggle. Such an image invokes the idea of soil difficult to break, physical labor beyond comprehension filled with deep breaths. This image is evoked at the end of the first stanza. This opening of the poem helps to convey how the struggle of raising children has to be one in which the parental eyes of the present are fixated on the children's future. Auden's invocation to open this poem is universal in its effectiveness. The images help to remind individuals of their own past or evoke a sense of melancholy for individuals who themselves were not benefactors of such a condition. For these reasons, I think that one can see how the key images are effective in the opening lines of the poem.
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