What is the tone of "Ex-Basketball Player" by John Updike?
I think that one tone that can't be ignored is the reminiscent tone. The speaker is somebody that lives in the poem's town, and is somebody that used to watch Flick Webb play high school basketball. Several of the poem's stanza are the narrator's reminiscences about how great a basketball player Flick was.
However, I don't think that "reminiscent" quite captures the main tone of the poem though, and that's because reminiscent is a fairly emotion-neutral word. I can be reminiscent about all kinds of different things, and I will have a different attitude about many of them. I might be happy, sad, or remorseful for example.
I think the speaker's main attitude regarding Flick Webb is a mixture of remorse and sympathy. That tone I really get from the final stanza.
Flick seldom says a word to Mae, just nodsBeyond her face toward bright applauding tiersOf Necco Wafers, Nibs, and Juju Beads.
He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
There is a forlorn reminiscence to the tone of John Updike’s poem “Ex-Basketball Player.” The poem details the adult life of a former high school basketball star named Flick Webb. While in high school, he had a special talent for the game, held records that were never broken and had hands that “were like wild birds.” In high school, he excelled at basketball, but “He never learned a trade, he just sells gas, checks oil, and changes flats.” Occasionally, he bounces a tire inner tube the way he did a basketball, but for the most part, he just works at the garage where the tools do not know his special talent. He works at the garage by day and hangs around the local diner in the evening. Flick’s life has changed from one of athletic prowess to a mundane, repetitive existence.