(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Music School” is a short story encompassing all the materials of a novel, for what starts out as a simple first-person narration soon becomes a confession of marital infidelity. The story features themes and techniques Updike often uses, in particular complex metaphor and the tension between materiality and spirituality.

The story revolves around three brief incidents. The narrator, who identifies himself only as Alfred Schweigen, a writer, tells readers that the night before he heard a priest describe a change in “his Church’s attitude toward the Eucharistic wafer,” that what was only allowed to melt in the mouth during Communion was now to be chewed and swallowed. This anecdote is immediately followed by another, the discovery in the paper this morning that an acquaintance, a computer expert, has been murdered, shot through a window in his home as he sat at dinner with his family. The focus has already shifted, and the story is becoming increasingly confessional, as the narrator admits that he is sitting in a music school this afternoon, waiting for his eight-year-old daughter to finish her piano lesson. He loves taking her and waiting for her, he says, but he only does it “because today my wife visits her psychiatrist. She visits a psychiatrist because I am unfaithful to her,” and he admits that he is also seeing a psychiatrist, who wonders “why I need to humiliate myself. It is a habit, I suppose, of confession.” He goes on to...

(The entire section is 540 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. John Updike: Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Boswell, Marshall. John Updike’s Rabbit Tetralogy: Mastered Irony in Motion. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000.

Greiner, Donald. John Updike’s Novels. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984.

Luscher, Robert M. John Updike: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Miller, D. Quentin. John Updike and the Cold War: Drawing the Iron Curtain. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001.

Newman, Judie. John Updike. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.

Schiff, James A. John Updike Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1998.

Updike, John. Self-Consciousness: Memoirs. New York: Knopf, 1989.

Uphaus, Suzanne Henning. John Updike. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980.