Summary of John Berryman’s The Ball Poem

The Ball Poem is written by John Berryman.


The boy loses his ball and watches it bouncing down the street into the water. To us, the loss of the ball is of minor consequence but to the little boy, it was a valued possession. The ball had been with him for a long time and it was linked to the memories of the days when he played with it.

The boy is very much troubled at the loss of his ball and plunges into grief. He stands stiff and trembling while staring at his ball. He is upset as he looks into the gloomy water because it has been with him for a long time. When the ball bounces into the water, all his memories of his childhood days flash in front of him. Moreover, the poet doesn’t offer him money to buy another ball because that would be worthless.

The boy cannot find his ball in the gloomy water. This is when he gets his first sense of responsibility. The poet suggests that from the loss of the ball, the boy is learning what it means to lose something in the world of possessions, where he will lose things, he will buy some more to replace the ones lost, but would never be able to buy back the thing that he had lost. The poet, thus, makes the boy understand his responsibility as the loss is immaterial. Money is external as it cannot buy memories, nor can it replace the things that we love, the things that really matter.

The poet suggests that from the loss of the ball, the boy is learning how to stand up in a world of possessions. The boy is learning what it means to lose something. The poet says that knowing that every man has to stand up after such losses, the boy too will learn how to stand up and leave the losses behind as he would have understood the true meaning and nature of loss.

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