John Updike

Plot Line Overview

Exposition: The couple (Richard and Joan) chooses to separate for the summer and the children begin to return home to visit parents.

Rising Action: Richard and Joan argue about how to break the news to their children and the couple tells their children about their splitting for the summer.

Climax: John (one of Richard and Joan's children) explodes at the news.

Falling Action: Richard goes to get one of his sons (Dickie) from the train station and he breaks the news to him.

More Climactic Action: Dickie asks why and Richard reflects that he does not know anymore.

Character Information: Richard and Dickie

Richard: Richard is the husband to Joan, who he is separating with for the summer. Richard's character is very developed through indirect characterization in conversations with his wife, his reaction to telling his children about the separating, and his reaction to Dickies "Why?" question. "...meaning he had no better plan, and agreed to hers, though to him it showed an edge of false order." Richard does not agree with his wife about how tell their children that they are separating for the summer. This indirect characterization shows how Richard is easily persuaded and he is not willing to fight for the way he believes is true.

Dickie: Dickie is not introduced into the story until the later half, but his character is developed quickly through his conversations with his father and his mother. "'Sure you want to get up and go to work? You've had a big night.' 'I want to.'" Dickies responsible character is shown here. "...but his son, sinewy, turned and with wet checks..." Although Dickies reaction to the news in the car was neutral, this shows that he is in some way effected by the news and he is unpleased about it.

Major Conflict

This short story is based on a large conflict; the separation of the couple for the summer. Although, the separating of Richard and Joan is the main external conflict of this story, another large internal conflict took place. Richard's internal conflict of not knowing how to make his wife happy anymore, but still loving her and not wanting to lose his family during this separation time.


The major theme of this short story is that you should never get too caught up in a choice or event that you forget why the event or choice is occurring. While Richard and his wife are making a choice to separate for the summer, a choice that is effecting his life in big ways, he is unsure why he is doing so. Also, another smaller theme to this short story is that family, they are there through the good and the bad, but they are your family and they are always there for you. "I love you so much, I never knew until now. No matter how this works out, I'll always be with you." Dickie, after being told about his parents separation for the summer learns this from his mother.

Figurative Language Used in Text

In this short story there were many point in which figurative language was used in great ways to help the reader relate to the story and feel the emotions in it. "Beyond four knifelike walls a new life for him waited vaguely." Beyond the pain that Richard would suffer through there was more life for him.

Why should you read it?

This short story was an amazing short read that many can relate to. The plot line of a family having to deal with the separation of their parents is a topic that many can relate to and will understand the story and feel the emotions.