"Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright

Essay by sugarshamUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2006

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Aspirations of a Better Life

In the poem "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio," the author, James Wright, tells a tale of a seemingly small, lower class, blue-collar community, whose love for football borders on fantasy. In Martins Ferry, football was a method of eluding the world the citizens were trapped in. Rural American sports, especially high school sports, has lost it purity, or essence of being a fun past time, and has come to embody the lost dreams and aspirations of the very parents whose children play the game.

The first lines of the poem describe what could be thousands of games taking place across America in the autumn. The "Polacks nursing long beers"(2), the "gray faces of Negroes"(3), and the "ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel"(4), probably could be found in any small town high school football stadium. The choice for a Polack to be "nursing" on a beer, kind of sets the scene for the type of people one might expect to be enthralled in a high school football game.

Polacks seem to be the brunt of every "dumb" joke, and Wright is using them as the type of people associated with the sport. The very thought or idea of a "ruptured night watchman"(4) paints a picture of a single, beer bellied, Barney Fithe type guard who is only a formality at such a small town event. All the abovementioned are "Dreaming of heroes"(5), almost waiting for the new, next big thing to talk about and live through vicariously.

The second paragraph talks about the parents of the children who play this beloved game. In line six "the proud fathers are ashamed to go home"(6) and the women who are "dying for love"(8) sums up the emotions that get mixed up during this time of year...