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

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

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

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

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

“a shield.Symbols: Barriers/Lock  Finally. 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.” against his family .

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

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

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

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

John   Richard takes John into yard. to prolong it” (2273)—so the moment closes . 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.

“Of the four children Dickie was most nearly his conscience” (2273).Richard. called Dickie. but sound is “sickening” to Richard (2275) . Jr. 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. but stunned.     Age 17. doesn’t slam door. first son.” He has “dumped the mountain on the boy” –or on his conscience? (2275) Response: calm.

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

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

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