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

yard. 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.

divorce followed a dramatic home improvement” (2269)  Separation has been long discussed and is decided: they story is about how to do it .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.

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) . the process of separating brings him closer to Joan: “Guiltily. 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.

.Joan     We see her from Richard’s perspective Separation is not her idea. but she is resigned to it. “you made it look as though I was kicking you out” .” (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. .

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 .Symbols: Barriers/Lock  “All spring [Richard] had been morbidly conscious of insides and outsides.

” 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. they came not through a hole that could be plugged but through a permeable spot in a membrane” Tears become new barrier. “a shield.

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

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 .

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

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

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

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

Richard had forgotten why” (2276) . 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 knife thrust. The white face was gone. the darkness was featureless. a window thrown open on emptiness.   Father goes to say goodnight.Richard.

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. haunting his rearview mirror like a pursuer” (2274) “When [Joan] stood.

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”.“Separating” as Picture of American Middle Class Life      Domestic life: Big homes. a bar (2274) Economy: 1970s energy crisis: shortages and long lines. yards. tennis court (status symbol). problem of fueling American material life Religion: Church is “a gutted fort” (2275) .

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