Essay on Relationships in Four Updike Short Stories

Essay on Relationships in Four Updike Short Stories

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John Updike was born in 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania, a small town where his father was a high school science teacher. An only child, Updike and his parents shared a house with his grandparents for much of his childhood. His mother encouraged him to write and draw. He received a tuition scholarship to Harvard University where he majored in English. As an undergraduate, he wrote stories and drew cartoons for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine, serving as the magazine's president in his senior year. Before graduating, he married fellow student Mary E. Pennington. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1954, and in that same year sold a poem and a short story to The New Yorker magazine (Detweiler 173). The publication of Rabbit, Run increased his reputation as a leading author of his generation. Updike died of lung cancer at the age of 76 in 2009 (Achievement.org). In four of John Updike’s short stories the relationships between the men and women reveal the male characters’ desires in intimacy.
The short story “Pygmalion” by John Updike begins with a man named Pygmalion describing his likes and dislikes of his first wife. He likes “her gift of mimicry,” but dislikes that “she would ask to have her backed rubbed and then, under his laboring hands, night after night fall asleep” (Trust Me 90). Pygmalion likes his second wife’s attribute of “her liveliness in bed” (Trust Me 90). He also “unconsciously” wants his second wife to perform imitations, but she does not. The second wife eventually figures out what her husband wants and does an imitation. She is lively in bed and makes him laugh with imitations: “She had become perfect for him” (Trust Me 92). But soon the second wife too asks for a back rub and “night after night,...


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...eams of C” (Problems 150). His use of everyday life, feelings and desires makes the fictional story believable. Updike’s emphasis on relationships possibly indicates his own idea that relationships between a men and women are important, especially in the ordinary lives of ordinary people.



Works Cited

Detweiler, Robert. John Updike. Twayne Publishers: Boston, 1972. 173.
“John Updike Biography.” Academy of Achievment. 2009. Washington D.C. 9 March 2010. .
Updike, John. “The Alligators.” The Same Door. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1959. 210-219.
- - -. “Problems.” Problems and Other Stories. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1979. 150-153.
- - -. “Pygmalion.” Trust me. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1987. 90-92.
- - -. “Wife-wooing.” Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories. Fawcett Publications: Greenwich, 1962. 79-83.

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