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“Perfection Wasted” by John Updike Essay

Legend Ends or Perfection Wasted? Each person brings a special quality and gift to life that creates an individualistic style to the world that we live in. The poem Perfection Wasted was written by John Updike in the year 1990; this poem accentuates the flair that can never be replaced when a loved one dies. One way to better understand a poem is to paraphrase it into your own words. Paraphrase of Perfection Wasted: One thing that is unfortunate about departing this life is the lost vivacity that a person works to expand since the day they were born. The closest relationships surrounding the person enjoy the up close and personal events in the stage of life. They are there through the good times and the bad while having utmost concern for you. The many special moments that were spent together, will never be relived again in the same capacity. Though they can try to be like you, they will never fully succeed due to individual quality you brought to life. “Imitators and descendants aren’t the same” The theme of this poem is death and what factors play into what is lost when a person dies.

The setting of the poem is philosophical in thinking about qualities that someone special carries in retrospect to life. I found no similes in the poem. Perfection Wasted is a metaphorical in the idea that is parallel to the idea that life is a stage and we are the players. Updike uses a lot of abstract and theoretical imagery as well as minimal visual imagery. One example of visual imagery includes the descriptions of the stage and the description of the faces he sees in the audience. An example of kinetic imagery is the “laughter” which leads the audience members to cry. The imagery is vivid and serves the purpose of swaying the view of the reader into an emotional state. The poem contains a medium to high level of diction that contains little slang while using one contraction in the last line that is the word “aren’t”. The words are not overly elaborate and maintain a descriptive role in the poem; the level of diction did not reveal what region the narrator originates.

I chose to compare the poem Perfection Wasted to the recent passing of my legendary hero Dale Earnhardt. He was an amazing driver who lived his world on a stage in the public eye. I had the opportunity to meet Dale several times throughout the years and he did have that special sparkle when I met him in person. Others can drive a car, but no one can replace Dale or his style. His son continues to drive one of the Earnhardt cars, but as Updike says, “imitators and descendants aren’t the same”. I know I will not be. I enjoyed reading Updike’s poem Perfection Wasted as well as his earlier work named “A&P”. He has a unique writing style that brings the reader to an emotional and empathetic state in relating to his characters. We can all relate to the situations that he puts his characters, along with their thoughts and actions. Death might bring the end to the magic of one lifetime, or the end of a legend. Regardless of the conclusion, perfection was not wasted. It was shared among the people whose lives were touched by that person’s gift.

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