Many people have a difficult time letting go of their past. When you can’t let go of your past, you can’t move forward into the future. In the “Ex-Basketball Player” by John Updike, Flick Webb finds himself holding onto the past and not being able to move on. Flick’s disappointment in the present causes him to try and relive the glory days of life that he had in the past. To explore Flick’s disappointment in the present, Updike utilizes setting, tone, and irony.
In the first stanza, Updike utilizes setting in order to explore Flick’s difficulty letting go of the past and disappointment in the present. Flick is torn between the life that he led and the life that he is now forced to live. He lives with the constant reminder of the life that he has been left behind as he travels past the high school towards Berth’s Garage. Traveling from the high school to the garage symbolizes Flick’s path from past to present. The high school represents the past where he lived out his glory days as a basketball player. As he begins to travel down Pearl Avenue, he has the chance to walk down two different paths. Each path represents a different course that Flick’s life could take. One of these blocks would lead him back to the past that he cannot let go of, and the other leads to his new life at the garage. He has to choose which path he is willing to take. Each day as Flick travels by the high school, he has to go through the internal conflict of letting go of the past in order to move on toward the future. In the fourth stanza, Updike utilizes tone in order to explore Flick's difficulty in letting go of the past and disappointment in the present. Specifically, these words express a morose tone. Updike wrote, “He never learned a trade, he just sells gas.” While he does have a career and learned how to sell the gas, it was not the trade that he was meant to learn. He did not advance his knowledge about basketball, which was what had carried him through his...
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