John Updike‟s “The First Kiss” uses a great number of rhetorical devices such as monstrous metaphors, dreary to encouraging diction, and descriptive symbolism. These three rhetoric devices help Updike get his theme across that baseball is meant to be fun no matter how demanding it is to the players and the fans throughout the season. Although Updike‟s ultimate theme was positive and sanguineous, he used a combination of a gloomy and uplifting tone to get to his theme. He started off with his gloomy and remorseful tone talking about the previous season and their late season blunder falling to the Yankees but then he moves onto the fans preparing for the next season and the eagerness that is behind the “Fenway Faithful”. The fans were ready for the Red Sox to lose their “statistical virginity” and for the season to get under way. By the end of the short essay, when the two managers shake hands at the start of a game, Updike finally reveals his theme to be that baseball is just a game and no matter how serious it gets, it is meant to be fun. Baseball isn‟t the about the media and all the extra money and attention that the players receive but it is about the love of the game and having fun playing the game. Even when thousands of “monsters” are booing solely at a
single person, that person some how shrugs it off and laughs. That is how the game should be. If a team losses or a guy has a bad game, shrug it off and come out more prepared next time or just continue to have fun. Life is to short to be frustrated all the time, have fun and enjoy every minute of every game and every season. In Updike‟s writing, most of his metaphors are geared toward three topics, one being “monsters” another being love or romance and the last one being religion. These metaphors reference either the fans of the Red Sox or the performance of the Red Sox whether it was God-like or not, and help Updike bring about his theme by referencing these metaphors. Updike first makes his topic of monsters right off the bat when he mentioned the “many-headed monster” in the first line and again in the fifth line saying that last season, the Red Sox broke “its monstrous big heart”. This reference was in terms of the fans and how they felt after the bad ending of the last season for the Red Sox. This horrific ending to the following year brought out the “monster” within the fans. The “Fenway Faithful” were turned into monsters when Updike mentioned the “dragon‟s breath” that was “primarily flavored with malt” and the rowdiness and aggression that the fans brought to the game of baseball. The monsters were known for having beer flavored breath and mostly for “booing royally” at the events that took place in the game that they didn‟t approve of. However, with the start of the new season, it was evident that the “monsters” had “short memories, elastic hearts, and very foolable faculties” meaning they were not only ready and eager to start the next season but forgiving of last seasons late playoff blunder and forgetful of the events that took place. After the monsters “booed royally” at Governor King and “booed furiously” at Zimmer, the season had finally began and the “monsters” have had their revenge. The “monsters” of Fenway Park are referenced when Updike is trying to portray a gloomy or cynical tone upon the readers and points out that the “monsters” are the despicable case to what Updike is
trying to ultimately convey with his writing. What this means is that the monsters are not following the ultimate message of Updike‟s essay. Updike is trying to encourage fun in
the game no matter what the situation is and when the Red Sox go on their slide at the end of the year, the “Monsters” are upset and couldn‟t watch the unraveling of the once called “Supersox” any longer.
Love or romance was another major metaphor used in Updike‟s writing. The first
mentioning of this topic was in lines two and three when he said that the Red Sox fans or the “many-headed monster…resumed its romance” the day before by opening up
their season. Then Updike goes on to mention last years “fling” and how the fans grew
“calluses” on their eyeballs from watching the Sox all year long. Later on Updike describes the Red Sox ending last year the “cruelest tease” and cites the fans feelings. In the next paragraph, things turn around for the fans because their “elastic hearts”
allow them to love the Red Sox again even after their bad season ender. Updike points out the love of the fans by mentioning that even though the season ended horribly last year, the fans “forgot” about it and are starting fresh with a new attitude of love and
eagerness towards the game and are looking to have fun through the duration of the next season. The love of the fans is going to allow them to have fun like the theme of Updike‟s composition. Even though Updike mentioned that the Red Sox will never get
the care of the fans again, the “elastic hearts” that the monsters possess is the major reason for the complete change in heart for the Red Sox: from going to hatred for the team to eagerness for the next season to get under way.
Updike‟s last topic was religion and it is first mentioned when he pronounces the “Fenway Faithful”. The capital „F‟ in “Faithful” indicated importance and some kind of religious feel. Updike is drawing attention to baseball and comparing it to a religion and saying that the fans of “Fenway” are the followers of that religion. Then on line 26 Updike says that the Sox pulled off a “mini-resurrection” after almost dying in a sense
and not making the playoffs pulled off a “miraculous last week” of the season where
they didn‟t drop a game. These religious metaphors that Updike uses in his essay, imply that the “Fenway Faithful” are strong followers and develop “calluses” on their eyeballs because of there “Faithfulness” to the Boston Red Sox.
The next rhetoric device that Updike used was his word choice or his diction in his writing. Some words that Updike used to describe the Red Sox‟s previous season were “unraveling”, “dismal nights”, and “massacre”. Just looking at these three words one can infer that the Red Sox season turned out dreadful. However, even though the Red Sox went through some “dismal nights” and did some “unraveling” towards the end of the season, the fans should still be having fun according the theme of Updike. When the team is losing, that is when it is hard to have fun but overall, baseball is a game and the game is meant to be enjoyed, not infuriating. Then Updike comes back with words like “epic”, “redemption”, and “statistical virginity” to show the eagerness of Boston to start the new season. Even though “redemption” is probably on the minds of the fans and
players, Updike would say that it doesn‟t matter if “redemption” is achieved, all that matters is the fun that should be imposed by playing the game of baseball. Updike‟s assortment of symbolism is first pointed out when Updike brings up the “many-
headed monster” or the “monster” or the “Fenway Faithful”, he is referring to the fans of the Boston Red Sox. This implies that the fans act like monsters and “boo royally” when their team is having a bad night but they are ultimately faithful to the team and watch and follow them throughout the season. When Updike brings up the “Supersox”, he is referring to the Red Sox as a higher power because of how incredible the Red Sox were playing and then Updike points out the fall of the “Supersox” a couple of words after the first mentioning of them. Fun is still meant to be had, according to Updike, even if the fans are acting like monsters or the quality of the Red Sox play has increased or decreased.
Even though I have recognized and talked about Updike‟s message that baseball and everything for that matter should be enjoyed in life, I still need to work on what he is portraying. If I go 0-4 with two strikeouts in a baseball game, I know I did not do my best so I am hard on myself about it for a while. But soon enough when a friend or someone gets my mind off the topic of how awful I performed in my game, I forget almost completely about it and I can then laugh about it latter in the day. In all, I try not to be so hard on myself but some times it just happens to be that way and I cannot get over how horrific I executed for a while but mostly I try to enjoy myself during and after the game even if I know I did not play my best.