Critical Analysis of Bleachers by John Grisham

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Critical Analysis Of Bleachers
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -E.M. Forster


Bleachers is the fictional story of a former all-American high school quarterback visiting his hometown, and while there encountering the various ghosts he had left behind. It is a novel written by John Grisham, who is a fairly well renowned American author. The novel explores the main character’s struggle as he copes with the past life he lead in high school, as he is forced to once again face the same dilemmas he had put behind him. Issues such as his love-hate relationship with his coach, the strong yet not desired attachment to the past, and his crash from glory and fame are amongst the many forms of adversity the main character confronts. One could say that Neely Crenshaw was fulfilling his personal destiny by returning home, and through the journey gains the satisfaction of liberating his soul and conscious from the demons that had long doomed his thoughts.

At the ripe age of 17, Neely Crenshaw was the king of his football-crazed hometown of Messina. This power was granted to him through his position of the local high school quarterback, as the town as a whole revolved around the football team. He was hoisted up onto a pedestal and admired by the whole community, bringing him to such an ideal form of life that it would be near impossible to duplicate it following his graduation. It was this that led to the demise of Neely, as after a very successful early start to his college career, he was injured and told he could never play the game of football again. Thus pulling him back to earth, and labeling him with the title of just another mortal citizen. A concept he struggled greatly with, and from this feeling festered emotions of resentment towards his old hometown, as it represented all that he had lost. Though the book begins with him walking around the track surrounding the sacred football field, as he has returned to be with his old teammates as they mourn the recent death of their coach. Due to an altercation with his ex-coach, Eddie Rake, Crenshaw had vowed to never return back to Messina. Yet for reasons even he could not articulate, he found himself in the bleachers taking a horrid trip down memory road. While the memories were primarily positive, apart from the thoughts plagued by flashbacks to his altercation with Rake, life in Messina was something that Crenshaw wished to forget. And although the town still worshiped him and he remained a hero in their eyes, their awe and praise was something he dreaded hearing. This can be attributed to Crenshaw’s desire to lead a life in the present, as he no longer felt the same ecstasy the past had once instilled in him. It can be best summed up that Neely didn’t want to have been somebody, he wanted to be somebody. He regretted some of the decisions he had made while on top of the world, and after reviewing them from a more grounded standpoint he was left with deep feelings of resentment for his old self. This was illustrated strongly by the quest he undertook to find an ex-girlfriend he had dated, but eventually left for a more attractive and popular girl in the heat of his prime. He simply could not live without getting legitimately forgiven by the old girlfriend, and he dedicated a significant amount of his stay in Messina to spend attempting to convince her he was worthy. Naturally she was reluctant, but upon truly seeing the remorse Neely felt she mustard up a weak statement of forgiveness. Although it was not something he was particularly satisfied with, Neely left feeling a bit better about his past, and this became sort of a turning point in the book. It was like he had an epiphany, suddenly realizing he owed something to the town that had adored him for so long. Although it was no longer him per se, it was his obligation to tolerate the conversations and awe he struck in the locals; as for all the love they gave him he gave little back.

While Grisham’s writing was about as deep as a children’s novel, he did manage to lace in a few themes and lessons for the reader to take away. We all can take a little bit from the life of Neely Crenshaw, and most can relate to overcoming issues we have left in the past. Opening up the closet of our past often reveals things we had wished to forget, and often times we can go without ever having to go through the soul searching that Neely did. He was thrust back into the past, this time as a fallen hero whose greatest claim to fame was his high school glory days many years prior. He was remembered as a great quarterback who suffered a career ending injury, and as ridiculous as it sounds that was all he had to cling to. Though the fact that high school football was the pinnacle of his life made him dislike it even more, as he saw it as different lifetime, one where he lived as a different person. This being said, I feel that the most prominent theme is to never take anything for granted, as you truly never know just when it can slip away. Despite how cliché it sounds, it is a strong moral that we should all give more attention than we actually do. Everyday we take our next breath for granted, let alone the things we enjoy most.

As a whole, Bleachers was a fairly compelling and overall a good novel. For better or worse it was very straightforward, and fairly one-dimensional as well. It lacked the depth sometimes desired in novels, as it was merely a combination of a few stories about Neely’s life moved along by the dramatic build up to minor details. However it was enjoyable in the sense that it could be picked up at any point and one would not need to reflect back on what was already read, as there was no deep flow in the novel. It would be a great summer book, as it is mindless and still tells the tale of an interesting character. Its completed well by the final reflection given by Neely as he delivers a speech as his old coach Eddie Rakes funeral, as we finally get to see some much needed personal reflection on the events in the book. It certainly brought the book together, and made sense out of any open loopholes. Neely’s life was certainly filled with ups and down, and after having reached such a climax so young was certainly more of a curse than a blessing. He teaches us though to never take anything in like for granted, as we all could reach a situation like him and have it taken away in an instant. Enjoy every second of it because you never know when it’s going to change for the worse, and you don’t want to be caught like Neely just looking back and wondering what happened. Live life in the moment, but remain grounded in your thoughts and perception on life. It never hurts to be too appreciative, but overlooking life rarely goes unpunished. Just ask Neely Crenshaw.





Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

lee19351 said...
May 27 at 3:38 pm
Bleachers by John Grisham is pure hogwash The man never served a day on a PBR in Vietnam
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback