“Separating” (1975


John Updike

John Updike (b.1932)

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One of the most prolific American writers working today, famous for his “Rabbit” novels covering 4 decades: Rabbit, Run (1950s), Rabbit Redux (1960s), Rabbit Is Rich (1970s), Rabbit at Rest (1980s) Born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, small town that is basis of his “Olinger” stories; an only child Attended Harvard, then studied art in England Worked for New Yorker magazine, then settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts




Couples (1968). many essays .John Updike (b. 6 books of poetry. a play. about a theologian. Roger’s Version (1986). Terrorist (2006). The Witches of Eastwick. fantasy about modern-day New England witches (also film & musical). a post-Sept. over 60 books: many novels.1932)   Other novels: The Centaur (1964). about marriage and adultery. 11 novel In total. about high school teacher.

yard.Family Conflict      Modern marriage and separation Father leaving the family: his ambivalence Examination of middle class life: house. their unique reactions Special focus on relationship between father and sons . tennis court Telling the 4 children.

Opening  Maples’ separation contrasts with   Nature: “the only stain in Nature” (2268) Home improvements: new tennis court: “the Maples had observed how often. among their friends. divorce followed a dramatic home improvement” (2269)  Separation has been long discussed and is decided: they story is about how to do it .

the process of separating brings him closer to Joan: “Guiltily.Richard     The center of consciousness Separation is his idea: there’s another woman. he dreads telling the children: “In his sealed heart he hoped the day would never come” (2269) Ironically. he realized he did not feel separated” (2273) . He is “in love” (2269) with a woman in town he hopes to marry (see 2275) However.

” (2269) Her sarcasm and protests suggest her feelings: “your wonderful departure” (2269). but she is resigned to it.Joan     We see her from Richard’s perspective Separation is not her idea. she cooperates and even supports him She insists on Richard handling it responsibly: “Joan’s plan was exact. . . . “you made it look as though I was kicking you out” .

Symbols: Barriers/Lock  “All spring [Richard] had been morbidly conscious of insides and outsides. of barriers and partitions” (2270). barriers between:     Richard & Joan and the “truth” Past and future Telling the children and his “new life” Inside and outside of house: “battening down the house against his absence”: the lock .

” against his family . Richard cannot separate himself from the emotion of separating:    “The partition between himself and the tears broke”—from the image of Judith as their first baby “The tears would not stop leaking through. they came not through a hole that could be plugged but through a permeable spot in a membrane” Tears become new barrier.Symbols: Barriers/Lock  Finally. “a shield.

they needed space and time to think: they liked each other but did not make each other happy enough. we haven’t been doing enough for each other” (2275) No mention of “third person” (2273). somehow” (2271) “We want to see how it feels. avoiding issue of divorce . She and Daddy both agreed it would be good for them.Language: Euphemisms of Separation    “it was a separation for the summer. For some years now. an experiment.

Language: Children’s Responses   Like their parent’s explanation of the separation. the children’s responses to it often hide or distort their true feelings Children use sarcasm and melodrama to cloak their feelings .

You should either live together or get divorced” (2271) .Judith    Oldest. too sophisticated exhalation” of cigarette “[I]mitating her mother’s factual tone. just back from studyabroad in England “too energetic. “a woman” now.” Judith says: “I think it’s silly.” but “too cool.

nooh!’” .” Her response is the “faintly dramatized exclamation”: “‘Oh. also called Bean Looks “as if into a shopwindow at something she coveted—at her father.Margaret    Age 13. a crystalline heap of splinters and memories” She had “long expected it.

puts cigarette in mouth Later still. Asks “Why is Daddy crying?” (2271) Later: “What do you care about us?” he boomed. he lights matches.John     Age 15. “We’re just little things you had” (2272) Drunk.K. No sweat” (2273) . keeps shouting: “I’m O.

to “soft green rise glorious in the sun” Moment of honesty: John not happy with school  Richard tries “to make too much of the moment.John   Richard takes John into yard. to prolong it” (2273)—so the moment closes .

” He has “dumped the mountain on the boy” –or on his conscience? (2275) Response: calm.Richard.     Age 17. but sound is “sickening” to Richard (2275) . he is “moderate” and “reasonable” (2274) Telling him is a “black mountain” for Richard Richard to Dickie: “My father would have died before doing this to me. doesn’t slam door. called Dickie. first son. Jr. but stunned. “Of the four children Dickie was most nearly his conscience” (2273).

  Father goes to say goodnight.Richard. the darkness was featureless. a knife thrust. Richard kisses his father and asks “Why?” Richard’s question is “the crucial. Jr. intelligent” one that goes through the barrier: “It was a whistle of wind in a crack. a window thrown open on emptiness. The white face was gone. Richard had forgotten why” (2276) .

an inexplicable light—the moon?—outlined her body through the nightie” (2275) .Symbol: Moonlight  Richard’s pursuer   On road when Richard drives to pick up Dickie: “a diaphanous companion. flickering in the leaves along the roadside. haunting his rearview mirror like a pursuer” (2274) “When [Joan] stood.

“Separating” as Picture of American Middle Class Life      Domestic life: Big homes. a bar (2274) Economy: 1970s energy crisis: shortages and long lines. divorce is common Recreation: golf course. tennis court (status symbol). problem of fueling American material life Religion: Church is “a gutted fort” (2275) . yards. rock concert in city Public space: Downtown at night: “a gang of Tshirted kids on the steps of the bank”.