Joyce Carol Oates “Golden Gloves” Story

Yu-Tzu Lin Instructor Emily Plicka English 101 6, October 2012 In Joyce Carol Oates’ story “Golden Gloves”, it is about the growth of a boy to becoming a man. This boy who was a born with deformed feet, he had couldn’t walk until 3 years old. His dad was a little shameful of him being handicapped. He didn’t like people to touch him or help him. When he was eight, he had a surgery on his feet. He suffered a lot of pains during his rehabilitation . His father took him to a boxing match and he fell in love with boxing right away.
He told himself that He would box one day at the Golden Gloves tournament and people would see him standing there in that ring, not in a wheelchair. He began his training at the YMCA. He worked out every day in order to keep himself in the best shape. All he thought about was boxing. He was told that he had talent and had a future. He won many local matches. At the young age of eighteen he boxed in the semi-finals of the Golden Gloves tournament, and it was the game that ended his boxing career. A few years later, he married a woman, Annemarie, who desired to have children so bad.
She always wanted to have a family even after her first miscarriage; she still persisted to be pregnant again. Finally, Annemarie got pregnant again. They took natural childbirth classes together. But her husband never told Annemarie about his past—about his amateur boxing. He even wasn’t honest about his premature birth and deformed feet. It is a deep shame he struggles with. Joyce Carol Oates “Golden Gloves” story, the main character struggles with insecurity, even as an adult who eventually achieves success and happiness in his career and marriage.

His insecurity haunts him his whole life through: First, insecurity as a child, he was suffering a lot of pain from his deformed feet. He was being bullied by the kids at school. He would grab them and hurt them and made them cry when he got older. Those childhood experiences built up his personality more like shy, showing none of his emotions in him, even a little bit self-abased. As a child, there was not much things that he could do about it, so he keeps his hurt and anger bottled up inside. (P. 774) Second, as a boxer, he lies awake at night worrying about the “punch out of nowhere” and worries about disappointing his dad.
When he was training at YMCA, he was constantly thinking about what did other people think about him and if he challenged other boys, could he knock him out? He also practiced with boys that might be older than him. He improved himself, he knew his weaknesses. (p776) From that example shows that he was insecure that he would be fail. Although some readers might think that it showed his humility, actually here is a mixture feeling of being humble and afraid of not being the best boxer. His father made the statement: “Either you have the talent or you don’t, It can’t be fake. (p. 776) this pointed out that he had to win to show that he had talent in boxing. Also his dad put bets on him and that gave him more pressure and worried about letting his dad down. That is probably why he would wake up in the middle of the night and confused about himself. Here, Oates wrote “His fists when he woke would be clenched so hard his fingernails would be cutting into his palms, his toes curled in tight and cramped as if still deformed, secretly deformed. ” (p. 779) because character here was physically healed, he was not crippled anymore.
But he still had the same reaction as when he was crippled before. Moreover, the last word, “secretly deformed”, makes readers feel like that he is still deformed in some way. Maybe he is not physically deformed; maybe in deep down his heart, he is still that crippled boy. Third, he was also insecure as an adult in his strength —admire the strength of his wife, her willingness to try again reminds him of his failure at eighteen, and his insecurity haunts him. Annemarie, his wife, was miscarriage the first pregnancy. She suffered a lot physically and mentally.
Annemarie was persistent to be pregnant again but he hesitated. Annemarie’s persistence made him think of his boxing career, made him think of his failure. The main character told himself that “It’s just physical after all it doesn’t mean anything. Such failures of physical life don’t mean anything. You take the blow then get on with living isn’t that the history of the world? Of course it is. ” This part showed that he was trying to comfort himself and made himself feel better about trying again. And the next he said he is an adult now, not a boy any longer. (p. 82) He compared Annemarie’s miscarriage to his failure at eighteen, and he admired the strength of his wife and persuaded himself that he can take more now. Even though when the baby due in less than a week, he was still insecure about the punch out of nowhere. (p. 783) Maybe he was worried about that he couldn’t control what would happen next. Throughout his life, things were always happened unexpectedly. “He hadn’t been a fighter at all, merely a victim. ” (P. 783) This phrase from Oate’s story pointed out that his biggest insecurity is from life, since he was a premature baby who had deformed feet.
He worked so hard to be able to walk; he got bullied by other kids. When he finally became a boxer, he was worried about disappointing his dad, and failure in boxing. He still struggled with insecurity about things happened to his wife. Actually he had a good life when he grew up. But why does he continue to feel insecure in his life, in his happiness? Is it because deep down inside of him he is still that little boy with deformed feet that people pitted or made fun of? Hopefully, he would learn from strength of Annemarie. And maybe when their baby is born, he can feel more secure in his role as a father and a husband.

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