Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Set in a typical small New England town, The Witches of Eastwick offers a witty, irreverent, and pointed glimpse of small-town people and values, but with a twist. The three main characters are witches, and amid local gossip, scandal, and sorcery, they seek the perfect relationship by any means.
The Witches of Eastwick is divided into three chapters. These sections (“The Coven,” “Malefica,” and “Guilt”) respectively introduce the players and the situation, resolve the various conflicts that arise, and detail the aftermath. The story is related by an unseen, omniscient narrator who is a town resident.
The story begins as the three principal characters, Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont—all divorced, and whose former husbands are literally gathering dust on shelves in their homes—prepare to meet at Sukie’s for one of their weekly “Thursdays.” At such rendezvous, the three relax with a few drinks, gossip about the latest affairs they are having with various tired Eastwick husbands, and practice witchcraft.
During the first section of the novel, the narrator details the minutiae of life in Eastwick; however, the focus remains largely on the three witches, the various tricks and pranks they play (at times outright nasty), and their own boredom-generated affairs. The reader becomes acquainted with Alexandra’s deep, earthy rootedness and power; with Jane’s cranky, precise...
(The entire section is 719 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Jane Smart, Alexandra Spofford, and Sukie Rougemont are divorced single mothers in a small town in Rhode Island. They are also witches. One day in September, Jane tells Alexandra that a new man has moved to town, a New Yorker. Alexandra begins to reflect on her past as she returns to putting away the jars of spaghetti sauce she has made from her summer tomato crop. She continues these reflections as she walks her dog Coal on the beach.
Alexandra is an artist; she sculpts small clay figurines of women and sells them locally. Jane is a cellist and teaches piano. Sukie writes a gossip column for the local newspaper. They meet every Thursday for drinks and talk. At their next meeting, they discuss Greta, the awful wife of Raymond Neff, with whom Jane plays music. They also talk about Darryl Van Horne, the town’s newest resident.
On Sunday night, Jane and Neff play in a concert at the Unitarian church. Van Horne attends. He talks to Alexandra about her sculptures, and she decides that she hates him. Jane meets him, and he critiques her performance and makes suggestions about her playing. Ed Parsley, the minister, joins them, as does Sukie. Van Horne reveals that he is attempting to invent some sort of protective coating that generates electricity.
Sukie is the first to visit Van Horne, and she publishes a newspaper story about him. She tells Alexandra that Van Horne wants to get to know all of them. Alexandra reflects on her life and...
(The entire section is 1151 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Witches of Eastwick is a diabolical comedy—a novel that explores the uses and abuses of power in its diverse forms in an age of moral and social confusion and that resolves itself in marriage. Like Rabbit Redux, the novel is set during the first year or so of the Richard Nixon presidency, an era of protest, discontent, and polarization. The setting is a small town in Rhode Island called Eastwick. In Rabbit Redux, Updike portrays a rather powerless Rabbit as witness to cultural disintegration and moonlike spiritual barrenness in the context of the late 1960’s. In The Witches of Eastwick, though he wrote the book in the early 1980’s, Updike goes back to the same polarized period but explores the female perspective and the emerging new feminist synthesis. As the power of patriarchy “wastes” itself in yet another war—this time the seemingly endless war in Vietnam—women are rediscovering the old goddesses, the old sources of unity, integration, and power. Yet, like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Updike shows that power unmindful of history and exploitative of nature constitutes an evil that produces death and guilt.
The “witches” of the title refer to three divorcees, Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont, who have become close friends, meeting each Thursday and speaking often over the telephone, and who have discovered the power of sisterhood as well as some ancient feminine powers. The term...
(The entire section is 885 words.)