Critical Thinking On eighty Yard Run- Theme
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The short story, ‘Eighty Yard Run’ is set between the high and the depression of 1920-1930’s. The changing times contribute to the conflict depicted in the characters as they try to find foot in the ever-changing circumstances of the time. The story opens with a flashback by the main character, Christian Darling, remembering the eighty yard run that he had fifteen years ago. He writes, “Darling half-closed his eyes, almost saw the boy fifteen years ago reach for the pass, slip the halfback, go skittering lightly down the field, his knees high and fast and graceful,” It was at the peak of his youth, at twenty years, he caught a pass and went with the ball for eighty yards. This, he considers as the best part of his life, as he is now thirty five years old and has nothing much to show for it apart from his moment of glory when he made the eighty yard run. Life then was high and his girlfriend Louise worshipped and adored him. They got married but years later, Darling does not keep to Louise’s expectations and he remains the one doing the chase when the fame is all gone. Shaw, through Darling’s regret and mournful thoughts of his glorious past, brings out the idea of lost and wasted youth. The characters’ inability to adjust to changing times and the success of those who do so, points to the reader that there are no absolute values and one needs to adapt to be successful in an ever changing society.
Christian tries to recapture the lost times in his youth, a moment when he had hope in life, when there was a promise of glory and triumph. A time when he had no thoughts of failure or death. Looking at this, and how he treated life, he seemed to have believed that there was no possibility of him coming down from the high pedestal that he was at that time. The events of life thereafter took a turn for the worst as, save for that glorious eighty yard moment, Christian’s recollections of the past are of lost opportunities, of failures, unfulfilled promises and faded dreams. Following this turn of events, he has had to redefine his dreams and tame his expectations of people and of life. Christian failed to maximize the opportunity he had as a football star. He also fails to keep up with Louis, and instead of adjusting and supporting her, he her friends, making their relationship take a bad turn. Instead of Christian adjusting to the changed circumstances of super-hero to ordinary factory worker, he becomes more angry and depressed. From these, the author brings out the aspect of there being no absolute values in life and emphasizes on the need for one to adjust to stay afloat.
Taking a job as a travelling agent brings back darling to the same field in which he had his short-lived moment of glory fifteen years back. Through his reflections, he realizes his mistakes that he was ill-prepared for New York City, the challenges of 1929 and neither was he prepared that his young doting girlfriend would grow into a mature woman with her own values and dreams to chase. This insight, however, comes late in life, at thirty five when most things have not gone right for him.
Louise adjusts and thrives in New York, presenting the positive gains that come when one embraces change and adapts to it. Unlike her husband Darling who gets disillusioned and turns to drinking, the depression does not put down Louise. She becomes part of the editorial team of a fashion magazine. She thrives well in her new role and environment and hosts parties for the elite of the society like labor leaders, artists and poets. Even though her husband is nearly drowning in self-pity and inadequacy, giving her a half-hearted support, she grows and becomes a representation of success amidst adversity of the recession.
Louise’s father commits suicide in the middle of the recession of 1929. His company went under which also left his son in law Christian Darling jobless. Louise’s father was unable to redefine his ink manufacturing business so that it could stand the test of time that came with the economic downturn that the society experienced at the time. He was previously very rich but following the depression, he was declared bankrupt, an event which he found overwhelming. This inability to hold in times of difficulty contributes to the theme of the need for one to adjust to the changing circumstances of life in order to succeed. This adaptation to change not only applies to acting differently but also changing one’s mindset, an act which could have saved the old man from suicidal thoughts.
Shaw presents two cases of failure and one case of success to illustrate the fact that there is no assurance of absolute values and the need for one to adapt to be successful in an ever changing society. Louise’s father and her husband Christian failed to this while Louise thrived in the changing world.
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