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The Marble Champ | Summary and Analysis

Summary of The Marble Champ by Gary Soto

The Marble Champ is an endearing short story written by the famous American poet Gary Soto whose works are known for being inspired by his daily experiences in life and presenting realistic portraits of people as they rush through their lives in this fast-paced world. Published in 1990 as a part of his collection “Baseball in April” this short story narrates an inspiring incident in the life of a little girl, Lupe Medrano, who, through sheer will and hard-work, succeeds in overcoming one of the biggest challenges of her life, emerging victorious at the end.

The Marble Champ | Summary and Analysis

12- year old Lupe Medrano was a prodigal child who excelled at everything- be it spelling bee, reading contest, science fair, chess or piano recitals. One of the best and most sincere students of her school, this timid little girl possessed a very sharp brain and was brilliant at academics, winning all awards possible. However, there existed one area in which she was miserable and that was sports. Though she had a sharp mind, she did not have even a minutely athletic body and failed at all sports activities. This failure at sports bothered her a great deal and she desperately wanted to win in this field too. After some deliberation, she came to the conclusion that if she tried, she could be good at playing marbles and thus, shine bright in the field of sports as well.

This thought filled her with great enthusiasm and she immediately set upon the task of practising and mastering the game. Picking out five gorgeous marbles from her brother’s collection, she tried her hand at shooting them and hitting the target but to her utter dismay, she discovered that though her aim was quite accurate, the force with which she flicked the marble was too little. She realised that her thumb was quite weak and therefore she was unable to shoot the marbles with the required power.

Determined not to give up so easily, Lupe decided to give her best shot at this sport. She knew she would have to put in all that she had in order to become ready to compete in the playground championship which was to be held after two weeks. Getting to work, she settled on a plan of action and worked relentlessly towards improvement of both her skill and strength. She did push-ups to make her wrists stronger and squeezed a rubber eraser repeatedly to strengthen the muscles of her thumb as that would lend power to her shots, thereby making her game better. Even while resting, she continued working on her game and took tips on aiming and shooting from her elder brother, who himself was a good player and had participated in the championship earlier. She would practise shooting marbles for hours after school, not even taking a break for eating, having only a candy bar for energy. She would also continue her exercise of squeezing the eraser and did all her other work with the left hand so as to not tire her right hand which was her shooting hand.

Her dedication and hard-work bore fruits and she kept getting stronger and better with each passing day. The more she practiced and exercised, the better she became at the game and even her thumb became much stronger than what it was on her first day of shooting marbles. She became so good that she managed to beat her brother as well another neighbourhood kid who was reportedly a champion at the game. Both these boys were quite impressed with her game and were confident that she would easily beat all the other girls in the championship.

Her parents also supported her dream of attaining glory in sports and encouraged her wholeheartedly. Though initially Lupe did not tell her parents about her desire to participate in the championship and the efforts she was undertaking for the same, eventually she did reveal it to them when her mother enquired about her swollen thumb. She told them how she had been working for days to strengthen her thumb and the swelling which had made her mother so anxious was in fact the muscle that had developed as a result of her workouts. Knowing Lupe’s history of being bad at sports, at first, her mother was a little apprehensive about her decision to take part in the championship. But her father extended his full support right from when he heard about this wish of her, even cancelling his game of racquetball to attend her championship and setting up lights in their backyard so that she could continue her practise even after it got dark. He was spellbound upon seeing how good she was at the game.

Finally the day of the championship arrived. It was a cold morning, with the tempestuous weather seeming to mirror her nervousness as the time of the match inched closer. However, all her anxiety faded away as soon as she was assigned her first match and brimming with confidence, she set out to play with a smile on her face and faith in her heart. One after the other, she kept winning all her games quite easily and found good friends in all of her opponents who were so impressed by her game that they followed her to each of her matches. A huge crowd gathered to watch her as she reached the finals of the championship. Her opponent for this final match was a grave looking girl who wore a baseball cap. She seemed hell bent on winning and though her solemn appearance rattled Lupe initially, she regained her confidence after receiving a piece of advice from her father. The game between these two was full of twists and turns and while Lupe fared poorly in the beginning, even getting dust in her eyes which worsened her game, she managed to pull through and continued playing guided solely by her instincts. She was determined to not give up until the very end finally, securing a spectacular win, emerged the winner. Her victory garnered a lot of praise and appreciation from the audience and the reporters who clicked her picture for the newspaper. She then played against the winner of the boys’ division, beating him as well and was therefore declared the champion. The championship thus ended on a note of celebration and joy for Lupe, who through her focus and strength of will mastered even the field of sports, the one area where everyone had always doubted her abilities. This victory meant a great deal to her and she felt proud of achieving this feat. She was finally content and at peace with herself. She expressed her heartfelt gratitude to her thumb without whose support she would not have been able to succeed. Thus satisfied and tired after her glorious entry in the world of sports, now confident and self-assured, Lupe enjoyed the reward of all her hard work of the past two weeks and drifted off to a good night’s sleep.

The story, designed primarily to inspire and motivate young children, very effectively conveys the message of working hard towards the attainment of one’s goals and through the character of Lupe, the author aims to encourage children to never give up on their dreams and try as hard as possible to achieve their desires. Even if things don’t work out in the beginning, with consistent efforts everything shall turn in their favour and sooner or later, all their perseverance shall lead to success and glory just like it happened with Lupe.




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