Ex-Basketball Player Questions and Answers
by John Updike

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Which object in the poem is NOT personified?

Objects like gas and oil are not personified in "Ex-Basketball Player."

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"Ex-Basketball Player" is a great poem that is very full of wonderful uses of personification; however, a great many of the "objects" in the poem are not personified.

Personification is a figure of speech that gives things like ideas, animals, and/or objects human attributes. Saying, "The sun looked down with pride" is an example because the human ability of smiling is being applied to the sun.

The opening line of the poem is a good example of how "Ex-Basketball Player" uses personification. We are told that Park Avenue runs past the high school lot. Streets don't run. That is a human ability being given to a non-human object. Conveniently, the opening line also provides readers with an object that is not personified. Park Avenue might run, but the "high school lot" is only mentioned as an actual lot. It is not given any human qualities.

Stanza four is probably the best place to look for several specific, concrete objects that are not personified in any way. Flick Webb is a gas station attendant, so he works with and sells related items. Items like gas, oil, and flat tires are mentioned, and they are not personified. The lug wrench he uses is also not given any human traits.

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,
This stanza is very different than stanza two's great personification of the gas pumps.