by John Updike
Rising Action: The Maple's have a family dinner with their children (with the exception of Dickie who is at a concert and will be picked up later that night). Richard's tears raise curiosity and Joan decides to announce the separation to their children then and there.
Climax: Richard picks up Dickie at the train station late at night. He must break the news about the separation to his oldest son on the ride home. Lots of tension has built up towards Dickie's reaction this moment and as he is the last child to hear of the separation.
Falling Action: Once Dickie is home and in bed, his parents say goodnight to him. As Richard bends to kiss his face, his child moans one word in his ear: "Why?"
"Why. It was a whistle of wind in a crack, a knife thrust, a window thrown open on emptiness. The white face was gone, the darkness was featureless. Richard had forgotten why" (807).
Resolution: In my opinion, there was no resolution in "Separating". A resolution is a point where the story's conflicts are resolved and loose ends are tied together. None of this occurred at the end the of this short story as the protagonist was left with a very important question that was never answered.
Richard is the protagonist in this story, married to Joan and father of the four Maple children. He is indirectly characterized by his emotions that he shows throughout the story. "Richard's crying, like a wave that has crested and crashed had become tumultuous... " (803). His tears and deep sorrow at the dinner table show his fragility and sensitiveness. It also tells us that he is a man that possesses a deep love and compassion for his family as the thought of moving out pains him immensely.
Joan is the wife of Richard and the mother of the four children. Indirect characterization is used the majority of the time to reveal her personality to the readers. During her children's homecoming and the announcement of the separation, she seems cooler and more self controlled in comparison to Richard. This is very obvious because she does not shed a tear during the entire story no matter the somber circumstance. Joan also comes off a bit bitter while discussing with her husband approach of breaking the news to their children. "Her plan turned one hurdle for him into four- four knife- sharp walls, each with a sheer blind drop on the other side" (801).
John is the second of the Maple's two sons and is in his early 20's. His is indirectly characterized by his reactions when he is first told about the separation. "The boy was lighting matches. Instead of holding them in his cigarette (for they had never seen him smoke; being "good" had been his way of setting himself apart), he held them to his mother's face, closer and closer, for her to blow out" (803). Following his father's announcement, he is appalled because he hadn't been told sooner. John reacts in a way that brings out his immaturity but also tells us that the concept of his parents separating is very hard on him and he is hurting on the inside.