Broken Dreams and Predictable Future in Ex-Basketball Player by John Updike

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Ex–Basketball Player – John Updike

Never put all your eggs in one basket. It is the ever so common tale of a talented kid with broken dreams. Flick was an extremely gifted basketball player in high school with endless talent and lofty expectations but had nothing to fall back on once those dreams where shattered. In the poem, Ex-Basketball player, John Updike uses basketball imagery and puns to relate to the larger themes of broken dreams, and a predictable future.

In the first stanza, John Updike writes about Pearl Avenue. This symbolizes the path that the students from the high-school can take. It is the road that Flick Webb is on as he is a standout basketball player at his school. The adjectives that Updike uses to describe Pearl Avenue; bends, stops, and cut are all terms that are associated with basketball movements. When he says that the road stops, he is foreshadowing the path to stardom stopping for Flick. Next he states that “Berth’s Garage is on the corner facing west.” Here John Updike is hinting at the road ending for Flick. He goes on to say that “Most days, you will find Flick Webb,” referring to the future of Flick being spent here at the garage.

The second stanza continues with the basketball imagery. Updike writes “Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps.” Here he is refereeing to Flick being taller than the opponents he used to play against in basketball. Next he talks about the pumps being five to a side. This is also a connection to basketball because there are five players playing for each team at any given time. He also refers to “rubber elbows hanging loose and low.” This can relate to a number of basketball items from the rubber basketball, to rubber shoes.

John Updike uses the third stanza to ...

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...ads.” This is referring to Flick’s childhood. He is sitting and looking right past Mae at the candy, which reminds him of when he was a kid and used to eat candy.

John Updike does a wonderful job bringing together multiple themes by telling the story of Flick Webb’s life. The biggest theme is that of broken dreams. Flick had the talent to make it far in his basketball career but sometimes our dreams do not work out like we would wish. It is important to have a backup plan. Always prepare for the worse. Flick never learned another trade and had nothing to fall back on. This caused him to live a sad and boring life once his dreams of playing basketball were over.

Works Cited

Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. "Ex-Basketball Player." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 1135. Print.

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