The opening stanza of "An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum" provides a clear, dreary depiction of the students in the classroom. The first child is a "tall girl with [a] weighed-down head." This girl is physically and emotionally exhausted, as if all life has been dredged from her body and sapped from her mind. Her classmates are in no better condition. "The paper- / seeming boy, with rat's eyes" is paper-thin and weak. His eyes are defensive and scared, like a scavenger, a rat. His prospect for survival, let alone success, is bleak. Another student, "the stunted, unlucky heir / Of twisted bones," is the victim of a genetic disorder. Spender writes that the boy has inherited his "father's gnarled disease"; he has been left disfigured, trapped in a physically challenged body.
Spender then describes the boy "at back of the dim class," stating, "His eyes live in a dream." This last student represents both a glimmer of wary hope and a shiver of mental damnation. It is unclear whether he is dreaming of a life he may achieve or has lost his mind to the "squirrel's game." This vague distinction between these two conflicting interpretations exposes all the students' futures: there is little or no expectation that they will succeed, and the best they can hope for is to keep their sanity and not fall victim to a faux reality. Beneath it all, the boy's dreaming eyes may harbor an honest desire for true success. This last boy,...
(The entire section is 1046 words.)
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