Poetry Explication of "The Ex-Basketball Player" by John Updike

Essay by hahathatsfunny13High School, 10th gradeA+, November 2006

download word file, 3 pages 3.7 2 reviews

Downloaded 63 times

The poem "The Ex-Basketball Player" by John Updike dramatizes the conflict between dreams and reality in the case of Flick Webb. Flick shows such promise in his teenage years, but he ends up in the pathetic reality of helping out at a garage and playing pinball in a luncheonette. The poem begins with the description of "Pearl Avenue" which "bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off / Before it has a chance to go two blocks..." Pearl Avenue presents a ticket name connoting a clean, freshness which describes the state of Flick in high school, his glory days. The fact that the street stops before it goes two blocks displays the harsh end of Flick's success. His prosperity ends with his adolescence; his seemingly assured future becomes a mere wistful memory. At the end of Pearl Avenue sits Berth's Garage which situates on a corner "facing west"; Flick helps Berth out there on most days.

Facing west connotes the setting of the sun and the ending of a day. It is fitting that Pearl Avenue ends in darkness. Garages have grease and filth in abundance; this contrasts sharply with the shiny, cleanness of a pearl. The poet's use of diction in the first stanza stresses Flick's riches to rags journey.

The second stanza contains a comparison of the gas pumps Flick works with at the garage to the players on a basketball team. He "stands tall among the idiot pumps..."; the description of them as "idiot" pumps perhaps illustrates the mediocre intelligence of basketball players, but because Flick "stands tall" among them he is obviously of a higher caliber. The poet personifies the pumps further as humans with "One's nostrils are two S's, and his eyes /An E and O." using the letters of the...