Separating - John Updike

“Separating” (1975

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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

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

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

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.

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

” (2269) Her sarcasm and protests suggest her feelings: “your wonderful departure” (2269). . . she cooperates and even supports him She insists on Richard handling it responsibly: “Joan’s plan was exact. but she is resigned to it. “you made it look as though I was kicking you out” . .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.” 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. “a shield.

Language: Euphemisms of Separation    “it was a separation for the summer. For some years now. 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). avoiding issue of divorce . She and Daddy both agreed it would be good for them. somehow” (2271) “We want to see how it feels. 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 .

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

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

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

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

but sound is “sickening” to Richard (2275) .Richard.     Age 17. 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. “Of the four children Dickie was most nearly his conscience” (2273). but stunned.” He has “dumped the mountain on the boy” –or on his conscience? (2275) Response: calm. called Dickie. first son. Jr.

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

haunting his rearview mirror like a pursuer” (2274) “When [Joan] stood.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) . flickering in the leaves along the roadside.

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

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