On the Devil's Court

by Carl Deuker

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Examine the protagonist in On the Devil's Court.

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Joe is the protagonist in On the Devil's Court.  In many respects, Joe is a typical adolescent.  He experiences a particular passion for something and endures challenging relationship with the dominant parental figure in his love.  Joe's love for basketball and the complex relationship with his father is reflective of much in adolescence.  For Joe, the ability to find release and acceptance on the basketball court comes from the lack of it he is receiving at home.  His desire to find this immersion into a world of acceptance compels him to sell his soul for a season of perfect basketball skills.  Only after the season ends does Joe recognize the implications of his actions.  Joe comes to understand the collision between temporal and fleeting happiness and a more significant and lasting vision of personal satisfaction.  Examining the dynamics of life on the court and off it is where Joe becomes the protagonist of the novel.

Joe's role as the protagonist is one in which the morality play of the novel can reveal itself to its natural consequence.  It is Joe's revelation into recognizing something larger than himself where Joe makes the transition from the temporal and superficial into something more profound and transcendent.  When Joe recognizes the danger posed to his father because of his "deal" and when he recognizes the power of something larger than him in the team, Joe's evolution becomes evident.  Joe's recognition of forces larger than himself in loyalty to his father and his teammates are where he becomes free of the spell of being on the devil's court and rather moves into a more inclusive vision in which he is a part and not the sole focus.  This transition is important in his development as the protagonist of the novel.

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