"Autumn Begins In Martins Ferry, Ohio" By James Wright

744 words - 3 pages

Aspirations of a Better LifeIn 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 ...view middle of the document...

The men seem to be ashamed to go home after being in utopia for a while watching a football game. After the game they come into realization the lives they actually have are nothing, and they can't endure going home to face it. The women, or mothers, that are longing, "Dying for love"(8), wait for their husband's emotions to turn back to them. For during this season of autumn and football, the men's emotions are for the field of play.The last paragraph in the poem uses one word in the first sentence. A word that can describe what has become the sentiment of this small town, and the dependency for the football game to keep them from lunacy, "Therefore"(9). "Therefore", the singular word for line nine almost states the consequence of what the game has become to the people of Martins Ferry. To their fathers or even other men watching the game the youth are "suicidally beautiful"(10). Suicidal suggests they go out there and give it all they have, with an almost reckless disregard for life. "Beautiful" meaning to the spectators watching, they are the hope for the future, maybe a glimmer in the eye. The last line has a meaning of livestock, the word "gallop" would be used for a piece of livestock, cattle if you will. To some of these spectators, or even parents, they are watching cattle on the field. The players represent, to somebody, the prize heffer that might bring the parent, the town some recognition, or to some lucky soul, a way out.Although, Wright himself played football, and even went as far as being a semi pro play in the Ohio River Valley Conference, the tone of the poem would seem to portray football as a sport for fools or a person of little or no education. The fathers dream and reminisce of the days they were playing the very same sport; maybe wishing it would have carried them further. The sons who play the sport either realize that this sport is their only ticket out of this town and, "gallop terribly against each other's bodies"(12), or don't realize this is the best is gets.Kirszner & Mandell. LITERATURE: READING, REACTING, WRITING. Fourth ed. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2001. (766).


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