Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
“At the Ball Game” is a perfect example of Williams’s desire to create a new kind of poetry. In keeping with other writers of the modernist period (roughly from the 1890’s to the 1940’s), Williams equates style with meaning: The way he structures the poem is integral to what he wants to say through the poem.
For example, just as the crowd changes with no warning from delighting in beauty to jeering at its own members, so the poem, with its lack of punctuation and refusal to end a thought at the end of a line, keeps the reader from reaching a full stop until the very last line. The reader thereby witnesses the abrupt transformations as they occur; he or she sees the crowd go from a “uniform beauty” to a deadly and terrifying “Inquisition” in a matter of seconds.
In this way, “At the Ball Game” strongly resembles Williams’s well-known poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.” The theme and style of “At the Ball Game” are dependent on the crowd, and what seems so simple at first becomes complicated by the end. For example, in reading the lines “So in detail they, the crowd,/ are beautiful/ for this/ to be warned against” (lines 11-14), one sees the continuation from line to line of a thought that instead of simply completing itself, transforms itself into something unexpected, challenging, and quite the opposite of where the thought started. The crowd’s momentary beauty lulls one into perceiving what is only partially...
(The entire section is 374 words.)
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