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Questions for Understanding Martins Ferry, Ohio: Source

Apr '01,

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Unfortunately, the Fu-Jen University Poetry Society Page discussing Poet James Wright's classic poem is no longer on the Web. Thanks to Google's cache, however, I was able to salvage the germane material parodied:

Questions for Understanding & Analysis

  1. This poem presents a speaker who is about to watch an American football game. Do you know what football is? It might help you to look at the relevant site below, which presents an explanation of the game and its rules. In this poem a football game is used as a metaphor for life in society. In what ways is life in society like a football game?

  2. The first stanza presents various workers. Why are they dreaming about heroes? Do they see themselves as heroes? Why do you think the "Polacks" are slowly drinking their beers rather than going home? Why are the faces of the negroes "gray"? Why are they "in" the furnace?

  3. The second stanza suggests that the men introduced in the first stanza are "ashamed to go home." Why? How do their jobs effect their family life? Why do their wives feel unloved? Why are they like chickens?

  4. If the second stanza shows how the men's jobs affect their relationships with their wives, the third stanza shows how their children are affected. Why do the sons play football? Are they too looking for love and human contact? In what ways is playing football suicidal? In what ways is it beautiful? Explain the final line.

  5. What does the phrase "Their sons grow suicidally beautiful" mean? What is the psychological relationship between the sons and their fathers? (Cf. The McGraw Hill Introduction to Literature p. 473)

  6. James Wright's father was a coal miner, and his youth was spent in a blue-collar environment in the Midwest. How does the poem demonstrate his knowledge of this aspect of America? (Cf. The McGraw Hill Introduction to Literature p. 473)

  7. What does this poem suggest about how individuals are effected by their jobs and life in society?
  8. Back to the Parody

— David Saia

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