By John Updike

Character Information

Richard: Indirect Characterization-- Willing to do anything for his family. " Dickie did not show surprise that his father was coming to meet him at this terrible hour."

Dickie: Indirect Characterization-- Committed to obligations. "Sure you want to get up and go to work? You've had a big night." "I want to."

Figurative Language

"Beyond four knifelike walls a new life for him waited vaguely."

I think this does a good job of wrapping the majority of the story into one sentence. This explains how he doesn't want to lose his family, but him separating from his wife will result in his life changing completely.

Plot Line

Introduction-- During the introduction of the story, Joan and Richard's daughter, Judith comes home, and all of the children except for Dickie come home.

Rising Action-- In my opinion, I think that when Richard and Joan tell the children about their separation and when they receive the varied reactions.

Climax-- The climax of the story was when Richard came to the realization that the separation involved more than just him and wife.

"Days long with homework, the weekends spend in his room with model airplanes, while his parents murmured down below, nursing their separation. How selfish, how blind."

Climax (2)-- The second climax is when Dickie returns, and Richard tells him about the separation.

Climax (3)-- The third climax is when Richard is saying goodnight to Dickie, and he asks why. " In his father's ear he moaned one word, the crucial, intelligent word: "Why?"

Why. It was a whistle of wine 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."


I believe the theme would be to not get caught up in the act of an action and forget why you're doing it. Throughout the story, Richard seems to get caught up in the action of telling his children about the separation, that he forgets why he wants the separation in the first place.


In the story, Richard and Joan are getting separated. I believe that the main conflict is Richard is going through the separation and is telling his children, but he doesn't want to lose his family. He has forgotten why he wanted the separation in the first place.

Why Read This?

What was the most compelling part of the story?--

I believe that the best part of this story was the development of characters, specifically the protagonist. By the end of the story, through the superlative characterization, I was able to feel as though I personally knew Richard. The author made him very easy to relate to and to be able to anticipate what his actions would be.