“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




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

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 .

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. the process of separating brings him closer to Joan: “Guiltily. he realized he did not feel separated” (2273) .Richard     The center of consciousness Separation is his idea: there’s another woman.

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

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 .

they came not through a hole that could be plugged but through a permeable spot in a membrane” Tears become new barrier. “a shield.” 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.Symbols: Barriers/Lock  Finally.

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

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

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.Margaret    Age 13.” Her response is the “faintly dramatized exclamation”: “‘Oh.

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

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.

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

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

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

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