by John Updike
Richard is the protagonist of the story, currently married, but getting separated, to Joan and clearly a very straight forward individual. He is indirectly characterized in a number of ways throughout the story, but especially through the way he wants to tell his children, "Richard was for making an announcement at the table" (1). This showing how Richard is more of a straightforward kind of guy who is also honest because of him wanting not to dance around the conflict, but instead facing it head on. This even more so true when to dealing with his family, because he showed a very hands on approach all throughout the story. The story is told by following Richard throughout the story showing how he feels and how he reacts.
Joan is another main character, she seems very intuitive and level headed when talking about what do to in situations and very indifferent when talking about the relationship with Richard. While the story never says directly that Joan knowns about the other women in Richard's life she seems to have moved on from this relationship, like Richard, and is ready for a new life without her husband. When going to tell the children about the separation she comes up with a valid reason why his way was bad and without them arguing about it, "'I think just making an announcement is a cop-out. They'll start quarreling and playing to each other instead of focusing. They're each individuals, you know, not some corporate obstacle to your freedom'" (1-2). That is one way the author indirectly shows Joan's personality throughout the story.
John one of the minor characters in the story, son of Joan and Richard Maples he is the second youngest in the family, next to Margaret. The author indirectly characterizes him through the outburst he had during dinner, especially when he tells his father the real reason he had the fit, ""It's not just the separation, it's the whole crummy year. I hate that school, you can't make any friend, the history teacher is a scud'" (4). From that you can tell that John is the type of boy that who keeps his feelings bottle up instead of venting them to someone else overtime, making him more likely to act up like this whenever his problems get to be too much. Showing he seems like withdraw individual, who is not that social to others through the author's indirect characterization.
- Exposition: The story begins with immediately begins with the plan of telling their children that they are separating. With some time before all the children are assembled Richard remembers the main event that led up to them going to separate, them having the tennis court built, and relates it's disarray like his mood is currently because of having to tell the children. Richard then proceeds to go over the plan of telling the children, while in the process getting to learn all the names of the children. Finally the exposition ends with Richard fixing a lock, thinking about how before he leaves he must repair everything that needs repairing, like a magician making sure everything is right before they escape.
- Rising Action: The start of dinner is when the tension really starts to build up in the story, because this is also the part when Richard begins to cry, all the emotions that he felt before hand built up just seem to burst out right near the beginning of dinner. Also, soon after the crying ensues the separation is revealed before the parents even say anything, because Margaret made the accident of letting Richard and Joan find out that they knew. Now that the separation has been revealed to most of the children, a discussion happened because they wanted were curious why. Then John starts to throw a fit because he is a bit tippy from the champagne and he needs to vent, he made a scene at the dinner table and then stormed out of the house. Once Richard finally calmed John down the party went on without Richard. Finally, a car ride to go pick up his other son, Richard Jr., he is filled with reluctant thoughts to tell this child all through out the car ride and the build all the way up to Richard Jr. stepping into the car.
- Climax: Finally, the time comes when Richard is finally telling his son about his separation, and you find out one of many reason that Richard and Joan decided to separate; there was another women that he loved. A moment of extreme build up has finally passed and the major conflict resolved.
- Falling Action: After the ride home with idle chit-chat about how the revealing went with the rest of the family reacted to the the separation, they finally go home and into their own bedrooms. Then Richard goes to bid goodnight to Richard Jr. and is met with the surprise with his oldest son in tears asking one word about the separation, "Why" (8). Finally the revelation dawns upon Robert, he didn't remember why they were separating.
- Resolution: There really is no closure, it leaves the reader in though wondering my Richard can't remember.
Why does a marriage break up?
This theme really makes the story appealing and worth the read - though just a eight page story the author put in these ideas that most people may or have experienced in their own lives, like falling in and out of love with another person and dealing with the downfall. In this case the downfall for this is Robert having to inform his and Joan's children of their separation. Besides the reflection that makes it interesting and really make you think, the way the story is written has its own unique style that I enjoyed to read. It had a very nice mixture of imagery, which is a necessity in really any story, and the plot was something simple, yet something you don't think that much about so it really brings it to your attention. Also writing about telling children that your separating could be boring to read, but Updike really make this a intresting read and I highly recommend it.