By John Updike


Exposition: The exposition starts off with all of Richard Maple's family being together, and him planning to hold a picnic.

Rising Action: Then in the rising action, Richard contemplates whether or not to break the news of his and Joan's (his wife) seperation.

Climax: He breaks the news that they would be seperating for the summer.

Falling Action: The falling action consists all of his kids having different reactions to this news, to finally lead to the conclusion.

Conclusion: Richard forgets why he is doing the separation.


The main theme told in Separating is to never forget your main reason why you are doing something. This is explained throughout the story, when Richard is focusing so much on the picnic and how to break the news of his separation, that he forgets why he is doing it in the first place.

Major Characters

Richard, the main protagonist, is going through a rough time in his life. He must tell his kids about his separation from his wife. Through indirect characterization, it is possible to tell how Richard is really feeling. For example, he seems somewhat normal when explaining the separation to his children, giving his reasons. But on the inside, it is one of the most difficult things he has done in his life, shown by the sadness he feels.

Dickie, Richard's oldest child, was the one to hear the news last. When he receives it, he is directly characterized to be accepting because of his general reaction. Unlike his brother John, Dickie did not have a riot when he learned about the separation. Also, Dickie is shown directly to be very caring for his family, shown by his interest on what his family's reaction was to the news.

The Conflict

The major conflict in Separating is Richard having to tell his kids about the separation. This can be seen as both an internal, and external conflict. Internally, Richard is heartbroken that he has to be the one to tell the news. He cares for his children and their happiness, so he doesn't want to break the news, but he eventually has to. Externally, the news affects his entire family, due to the parents to be, well, separated. His two sons have somewhat large reactions, especially John. He through a fit when he learned, which of course affected everybody else too.


In the end of Separating, Dickie asks his father why. "Why. It was a whistle of wind in a crack, a knife thrust, a window thrown open on emptiness." Richard was given a realization that he forgot his sole purpose of the seperation. All of this work he went through, was for nothing. The realization was the whistle of wind in a crack, the word why was the knife thrust, and his final thought was the window thrown open on emptiness.

The Most Compelling Aspect

Separating characterized Richard so perfectly, that it was the sole reason to read it. Richard was going through a lot, and on the outside he seemed calm and collective. But through his reactions to everyone else's reactions, that's when you can see the true Richard; seeing him worried for his son's happiness, curious about his daughter's carelessness, and startled about Dickie's final words to him.
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