Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Updike underscores the movement of the plot and the motivational processes of David Kern’s mind with a series of parallel incidents and images. For example, the image, early in the story, of an insect caught in the flashlight’s beam becomes a vision of death: man trapped at the bottom of a deep hole. At the story’s climax, this image recurs when the pigeons, seen in silhouette as they seek to escape the dark barn through a sunlit hole, are methodically destroyed by David’s rifle shots. This image connects David’s early terrors with the older, harder David, who enjoys the power he has over the pigeons’ life and death.

Similarly, David has observed an intricate pattern of natural order in the physical configuration of his dog Copper’s nostrils and whorling hair. This image foreshadows the geometrical precision and order of the pigeons’ wings and anticipates the recognition that accompanies the climax of the story. Such careful attention to minute sensual details makes the reader aware of Updike’s careful attention to symmetry and structure. The resonances created by parallel images and repeated scenes establish a distinct harmony between the story’s content and its form.


(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.