Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The major conflict in “Ace in the Hole” is between the juvenile mind of Ace and the business mentality of Evey. Like John Updike’s Flick Webb in the poem “Ex-Basketball Player” and Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom in Updike’s novels Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981), and Rabbit at Rest (1990), Ace suffers from the former-jock syndrome. He is unable to cope with life after his athletic career is over. The excitement of life during the high school basketball seasons makes everything else seem anticlimactic. There is nothing in the ordinary world of making a living that can compare to being a hero. All of his basketball skills, however, are irrelevant in his current situation. Thus Ace feels uncomfortable, perhaps incompetent, in the job market. In his effort to overcome his feelings of inferiority, he reverts to the past. In his dress, hair style, language, and mannerisms, Ace is still existing in the teenage environment of his days of glory. He is a victim of the emphasis that society puts on sports. Now that he is no longer a sports hero, there is no place for him. He fails to make the adjustment from the realm of a high school star to the business world. Besides Flick Webb and Rabbit Angstrom, Ace is similar, in his predicament, to Christian Darling in Irwin Shaw’s short story “The Eighty-Yard Run,” and to Tom Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby (1925).

Evey, on the other hand, is concerned with more practical...

(The entire section is 633 words.)