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Compare and contrast the following poems, "To An Athlete Dying Young" by A.E. Housman (1859-1936) and "Ex-Basketball Player" by John Updike (born 1932)

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Introduction

1. Compare and contrast the following poems, "To An Athlete Dying Young" by A.E. Housman (1859-1936) and "Ex-Basketball Player" by John Updike (born 1932) Both " To an Athlete Dying Young" and "Ex-Basketball Player" deal with the former athletes' glorious past when the runner in the first poem died and the basketball player in the second poem retired. However, ironically, the fame of the athlete who died at a young age remains while the fame of the ex-basketball player fade with his age. Firstly, " To an Athlete Dying Young" is addressed to the athlete himself as we can see from "To", and "you" and "your", the speaker is directly speaking to him, telling him how they as supporters "chaired: him and honored him. In the first sentence of the first stanza, the athelete is already been addressed, thus there is a sense of sincerity and respect from the speaker. ...read more.

Middle

However, it is different for the athlete who died young, since he has not completed the "fame cycle", his name remains "unwithered". In people's heart, he remains young forever, as we can see the repetition of "lad" in the poem, and the "still defended" shows a sense of continuation, that his spirit never dies, and people will always remember and support him. The "Ex-Basketball Player" in contrast, totally supports the view that the fame ages with the aging athlete. As we see from the description of Flick having "old bubble-head style", which is obviously out-dated, and the elbows being "loose and low" shows his physical degradation, and the comparison of him to a gas pump dehumanizes him and thus shows a form of disrespect of the people towards him. Furthermore, the "grease-gray" suggests dullness and the descriptions of his daily activity of smoking "those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphate" suggests a form of ordinary and banal lifestyle which implies that his fame has died. ...read more.

Conclusion

game", his hands were like "wild birds", very agile and brave and capable, he won the game and brought his town glory, there is no mention of him been honored in return. In contrast, the phrases such as "most of us remember anyway", "makes no difference" and "kind of", shows an apathetic attitude of the people toward him. There is the sense of ignorance and people are not bothering anymore about him. The "applauding tiers" in the last stanza personified the tiers of the pump to the hands of the human beings, but the difference between them is that the tiers would never clap for the "ex-basketball player" which again shows that he has been forgotten by his supporters. In conclusion, by putting the two poems together, we see that while an athlete grows old but still alive, he retired and become an "ex-" player who was only remembered by the people occasionally, the athlete who dies early would always be remembered in his most glorious moment. ...read more.

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