Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 150

Jenkins develops the idea of an unadulterated, although not naive, joy in sports values. These values are largely male-oriented in Semi-Tough, but they are also human values: the pleasure of competition, fair play, and team loyalty. Buried underneath the locker room horseplay, there is a complex fabric of affection and unspoken male bonding that makes race differences, the cynicism that arises from being treated as an object, and wild disparities in intelligence and skill peripheral.

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In the very best sense, Jenkins's novel celebrates boys' values; his narrator ends almost every chapter with some ritualized taunt aimed at the opposing team: "Death to the dog-ass Jets." A man playing a boy's game triumphs by exhibiting a boy's strengths: enthusiasm; a simple, unquestioned loyalty to teammates and friends; a love for the game that transcends the dross that threatens to overcome it; boundless, undirected energy; and an inexhaustible capacity for good-spirited naughtiness.

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Characters