Target Audience of “The Deep”


Target Audience of “The Deep” by Anthony Doerr

“The Deep”, a story written for a high school to college aged audience, is about how a young man finds contentment in his short life.

The age group of the audience would be a high school age and up because of some adult themes and one instance of harsh/crude language. For example, the description of Tom’s medical condition is somewhat graphic. Doerr writes, “Hole in the heart. The doctor says blood sloshes from the left side to the right side” (183). Much of the story takes on this eerie tone. There are also hints that the story takes place during the Depression, and readers would have to be old enough to catch these hints. Doerr presents us with the year, 1929, and also a few other signs that Tom is living in the Depression. He states, “Quart milk bottles sell for a dollar apiece. There’s no butter, hardly any meat. Fruit becomes a memory…” (191). Also, “Every six months a miner is laid off, gets drafted, or dies…” (183). Toward the middle of the story, the boarders staying at Tom’s mother’s boarding home slowly begin to leave because they can no longer afford to stay there. After everyone leaves, and Tom’s mother passes away, (another sign of the depression) Tom loses the house because he runs out of money to pay bills. It is clear that a reader below the high school age would neither understand nor enjoy many of the adult elements in this story.

The story is not gender specific. It has themes that both men and women could enjoy. Women might enjoy the theme of love between Tom and Ruby, and men might enjoy the theme of work. In the story, Tom has to find work to survive after losing his home, and many men (as well as women) can sympathize with this need to make a living. Also, there is a shared theme of depression-times. Anyone, man or woman, should be able to read about and understand (in a historical context) the time period of the Great Depression.

The education level of the target audience is most likely high school to college. The story is well-written, but certain elements of the story could only be understood by someone who knows how to read between the lines and understand literature in a deeper way. Doerr requires the audience to read between the lines by of the way he shows things, rather than tells them. For example, he doesn’t ever state that there is a depression, but hints it, as already mentioned. He also uses vivid language that could only be appreciated by someone with a fair level of education. Doerr states, “Ruby has flames for hair, Christmas for a birthday, and a drunk for a daddy” (184). He compares warehouses to “dark cathedrals,” and hauling machines to “demonic armatures” (187). Not only are the themes “grown-up”, but so are the words that are used and the way in which they are presented.

It’s hard to say what type of income the target audience might have. However, the story would definitely hit home with a lower income audience, because it emphasizes on the Depression. People who have been through financial struggles and wondered if they would have food or rent money each month would definitely understand the story best. Despite this, the story could be looked at and enjoyed by an audience of any income. We learn a lesson in this story;  no matter how hard the times, or how long or short your life, there is still a way to find joy. Tom is growing up at a time when people are struggling to survive, and he is living in a life-threatening predicament himself. At a very young age, Tom is told by the doctor that because of his heart condition, he will have a “lifespan of sixteen. Eighteen if he’s lucky” (183). Tom is not angry because of this, and he doesn’t let it hold him back from living life. At the end of the story, Ruby tells Tom, “some deserve more luck than they’ve gotten” (198). Tom responds, “I’ve been lucky, too. I’ve been absolutely lucky.” Tom’s statement shows that he is content with his life, and happy for the things that he did get to experience.

The audience might read this piece in a quiet bedroom or on a car ride. The story is short, but worth reflection. Parts of it take more concentration to understand. The voice is appropriate for the audience because of the sentence structure. The sentences are present-tense, fast-paced, and short. Here is an example: “Mother catches fever in 1932. It eats her from the inside. She still puts on her high-waisted dresses, ties on her apron” (191). Some of the sentences are even broken into fragments; for example, “Best if he doesn’t get excited” (183). This fast pace used by the author keeps the story progressing and helps the audience not get caught up in emotional attachment to the characters. Tom’s death at the end of the story is no surprise because we already know it’s coming, based on Doerr’s use of foreshadowing. At the same time, the story makes us nervous for Tom because of his constant fainting and distorted vision. Overall, the sentence structure plays a huge role in shaping the voice in the story, and matches up with the grim/dark tone.

Synthesis Questions:

1. Based on whichever story you read, did it turn out as you suspected? Did the author use any elements that may have foreshadowed the outcome of the story?

2. From your reading analysis, what did you learn as a writer? If you had written this story, is there something you would have done differently?

3. Did you find the story enjoyable? Why or why not?

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