“Gold” a Sports Novel by Chris Cleave Essay (Critical Writing)

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Mar 24th, 2021

Competition and the desire to win at any price are among the key topics that attract the attention of modern fiction writers. Using this topic, many authors manage to kill two birds with one stone. Thus, the stories devoted to people’s willpower are not only interesting, they help to motivate people of different ages and, therefore, make them understand that the majority of things that they consider to be the setbacks to their ambition can be eliminated, and their importance is overstated.

The unique combination of rivalry and friendship that is shown by Cleave (2012) in his novel can be listed among the key things that make Gold different from other books. The book under consideration tells about the life of two female athletes who take part in Olympic Games. Being the protagonists of the story, both Zoe and Kate are shown as extremely strong people who are conscious enough to be friends despite the competition.

Describing the events that gradually change the lives of the protagonists and their families, the author introduces a wide range of themes such as friendship, competition, sacrifice, rivalry, parenthood, grief, family, despair, and the will to live. The given analysis focuses on the role of bike that presents the key symbol related to the themes of competition, overcoming difficulties, sacrifice, and character changes.

The chosen motif is depicted as a symbol of sacrifice, fear, and popularity, and it helps the readers to keep track of Zoe’s character changes. Before the race, Zoe has to try hard to calm down and psych herself up for success; even though she understands that her current physical condition is good enough, she understands that she needs more time to prepare mentally. The crowd continues yelling her name, and it makes her even more excited.

The burden of waiting feeds her fear, and Zoe suddenly understands that she is extremely uncomfortable due to the decision of her friend (Kate) to refuse to take part in the race. Seeing Zoe’s fear, her coach Tom tries to encourage her, saying that she has to be afraid of the day “they are not shouting her name” (Cleeve, 2012, p. 12). Zoe agrees that she would not be the girl no one remembers. Tom’s words about fame, public recognition, and Kate help Zoe to calm down, she takes a deep breath, and she is ready to come face to face with the crowd and get on her bicycle.

The words of Tom turn her bicycle into the symbol of recognition, sacrifice, and overcoming fear, and this scene introduces the readers to the world of Zoe and Kate whose relationships are destined to be troubled. The scene is important due to the fact that it shows the seamy side of the life of world-class athletes who do their best to look fearless and unwavering.

The second scene in which the chosen motif item is represented in a symbolic way tells the readers about the events that precede the final race in Athens. Kate is sitting and watching TV, and the face of her best friend, Zoe, appears on the screen. Zoe is waiting for the start, and Kate knows everything about the feelings of her friend. Unlike the previous one, this scene explains the symbolic meaning of the chosen motif item in a different way; Zoe’s bike can be interpreted as a symbol of jealousy and self-sacrificing attitude.

Kate sees that Zoe is sitting on a “twelve-thousand-dollar American prototype race bike with a matt black monocoque frame” whereas she is in her room with the person whose problems encouraged her to give up on her lifetime dream – her ill daughter (Cleave, 2012, p.17).

Kate tries hard to overcome her jealousy and self-indulgence when watching Zoe’s motions and her facial expression, which shows her confidence. Trying to take her mind off downward thoughts, Kate gives a call to her husband, Jack, another world-class athlete, to express her concerns. Unlike Kate, Jack has made the decision to battle for a medal. He is upset to hear about “a shitty time” that Kate is having, and he does his best to explain that he would prefer to be with her rather than “racing for gold” (Cleave, 2012, p. 22). Seeing Zoe on her bike, Kate understands that her jealousy is disgraceful and she has no opportunity to sort out priorities in a different way.

The chosen motif item is also related to Zoe’s character change; being a person who is extremely goal-oriented, she understands that friendship and emotional bond are the ultimate values. After a few hours spent with Kate, her husband, and her daughter, Zoe returns home and finds out that one of her lovers has created a post on Facebook that defames her. Thinking about this situation, Zoe understands that she is afraid of ordinary life. Zoe is “like a smoker without cigarettes” when she is off the bike (Cleave, 2012, p. 56). In this passage, the bike is a symbol that shows her addiction to competition and success. To some extent, her career deprives her of individual happiness, and her relationships with others make her notice it.

Many scenes present Zoe as a person who is too flexible and unprincipled when it comes to competition. For instance, during one of their practice races, Zoe tries to unsettle Kate, making her mistrust her powers. “It’s you should be careful. Don’t break anything” – Zoe puts on a mask of kindness, and Kate thinks that her rival is sincere (Cleave, 2012, p. 149). Zoe pretends that something is wrong with Kate’s bike and it helps her to win the race. In this scene, the motif item highlights the difference between the characters and their moral principles.

Seeing Kate and Jack fight their grief caused by their daughter’s diagnosis, Zoe gradually understands that she also has to organize priorities in a right way. During one race, Zoe does not use her advantage to let Kate win. This decision seems to be spontaneous but Zoe realizes that she needs to do it for Kate’s daughter whose biggest dream was to see her mother’s victory. These positive changes are temporary because Zoe becomes jealous again. “You should have stayed down when you crashed today”, Zoe said to express her concerns (Cleave, 2012, p. 445). Kate starts crying, she is ready to do anything to ensure the safety of her daughter but Zoe wants the girl to know the truth about her mother’s victory.

Even though Gold seems to be devoted to sport, the latter does not present the key theme of the book. Instead, sport and related details serve as tools and symbols that are the avatars of ambition and fearlessness. The chosen theme motif is an important part of the book as the characters’ behavior during training and races clearly indicates their real motives and internal conflicts.


Cleave, C. (2012). Gold. Toronto, Canada: Bond Street Books.

This critical writing on “Gold” a Sports Novel by Chris Cleave was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

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