The Universal Baseball Association Essay, Research Paper
The disappearance of Henry in the final chapter adds a certain ambiguity to Coover?s text. Readers must question why Henry is not present and the reasoning behind his disappearance from the final chapter; has he merged to become one person with the players he created, have his players and league progressed to a maturity in which they no longer need him, or has Henry crossed the line of insanity causing the league itself to turn into a chaotic mess.
The possibility exists that Henry has merged to become one with his players. Many characters Henry created appear to reflect some of his desires and needs that he is unable to fulfill in his outside life. For example, we can see him “in the character of Paul Trench” who embodies many of the mutual traits between Henry and Sycamore Flynn during the previous chapters (Agelius 171). We sense “Henry?s presence. . .through Paul” in the structure of the final chapter (Angelius 172). Henry?s thoughts and feelings now portrayed through Paul Trench, who plays Damon Rutherford in the remaking of the tragic death. Henry, having merged to become one with his players, has lost touch with reality completely. No clues exist that the Association is not “the real world”:
The imaginative recreation of sport as play has become the world. There is not the slightest sign here of any other reality; even the existence of a creator external to the play-world may now only be inferred (Berman 219).
Henry crosses the line to insanity he has flirted with for so long, merging with the players in his novel, and leaves no indication that a world outside the game exists. However, the possibility does exist that Henry has not merged with his players, but rather the game has taken on a life of its own.
Some would argue that Henry, the creator of the Association, has not merged with his players, but rather they have progressed to a maturity where they have a life of their own, with the God-like presence Henry offers no longer necessary. This notion suggests that the creation of a game and of the people would eventually take on a life of their own:
Perhaps Coover wishes to suggest that the autonomy of the creative fantasy, how once the artist creates, the child of his imagination takes on its own identity and serves others in totally new terms (Gordon 45-46).
When Henry first created the league his presence was needed in order to make it work, yet as time passed the characters grew a history, had children and made a life for themselves. By the time the league reach the year CLVII, Henry?s “child,” the Association and its characters, no longer needed him to provide their identities. The league, created by Henry over a hundred years before, has evolved to a life of its own; the players, managers and spectators can think for themselves and have taken control of their own destiny as opposed to Henry and his dice controlling it. The possibility remains that Henry neither merged with his players nor left it to its own identity; his insanity drove him over the edge and the league into a chaotic mess.
Henry flirted along the line of insanity throughout the first seven chapters of the novel. His perception of reality and make-believe becoming increasingly distorted. When reintroduced a hundred years later, things in the league seem a great deal less organized than when Henry left off. Hardy, the player who taking over Damon?s role explains how the players can?t be sure of the events that are unfolding; they cannot be sure whether the history they know to be true actually holds true, if “[Damon] Rutherford and [Jock] Casey [ever] existed” (Coover 224). The players cannot be sure whether their history really existed or if it stems from legend and myth. The presence of this uncertainty causes confusion and chaos among the players; why must they participate in “The Parable of the Dual” and what will happen to them? Henry?s progressively increasing level of insanity has caused him to completely bow out in the final chapter; the disappearance of his role has caused mass confusion among the players and chaos ensued.
J. Henry Waugh, the proprietor, creator and God-like figure of the Universal Baseball Association disappears in the final chapter of Coover?s novel. His disappearance causes confusion with readers as well as with the characters in the novel itself, and also raises many questions. Critics speculate as to his whereabouts in the eighth chapter; has his personality been taken over in the form of the players causing him to merge with his creation, has the Association taken on a life of its own controlling its own destiny, or can the confusion and chaos among the players be explained by assuming he has crossed the line to insanity. The players Henry created do not know where they stand in their history or their purpose for being there; Paul Trench, Henry?s alter ego, “can find no words for the emptiness of their condition. It?s terrible. . .it?s all there is” (Caldwell 170).
Angelius, Judith Wood. “The Man Behind the Catcher?s Mask: A Closer Look at Robert Coover?s Universal Baseball Association.” Denver Quarterly 12.1 (1977): 165-174.
Berman, Neil. “Coover?s Universal Baseball Association: Play as Fictionalized Myth.” Modern Fiction Studies 24 (1978): 209-22.
Caldwell, Roy C. “Of Hobby-Horses, Baseball, and Narrative: Coover?s Universal Baseball Association.” Modern Fiction Studies 33 (1987): 161-171.
Coover, Robert. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. J. Henry Waugh, Prop. First Plume Printing: New York, 1971.
Gordon, Lois. Robert Coover: The Universal Fictionmaking Process. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1983.