What does the 'treasured prize' suggest in Giuseppi's "The Truant"? What message does the poem convey and what aspects of the boys' behavior are highlighted?

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In the poem “The Truant” Neville Giuseppi describes the antics of a young boy who joins a group of boys to frolic in the woods instead of going to school. In the first stanza, the “merry lad” begins with “twinkling eyes” in anticipation of the fun he will have as he leaves school. In the next four stanzas, the mood is light, as he becomes one of the twelve happy boys who play in the water, enjoy the sunny day, and chase birds in the woods. Their classroom of the day is nature and they enjoy every minute of it while learning the birdcalls, and finding the birds’ nests in the vines.

In the last stanza, the “twinkling eyes” become the “troubled eyes” of a quiet, introspective youth as the mood of the poem becomes serious. His “treasured prize” is the secret that he became a truant from school that day. In this case, the word “hugs” refers to the boy holding the secret day of truancy close to him. He has his memories of a beautiful day spent “learning” in the woods even though he knows it was the wrong thing to do. The message of the poem is that there are consequences for your actions.

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