Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A large portion of “A Sandstone Farmhouse” involves a series of flashbacks about Joey’s very ambiguous relationship to the farmhouse as it was before his mother’s death as well as descriptions of his actions after her death. The story is written using a third-person limited narrative, with the consciousness being near to but not exactly the same as Joey’s own consciousness.

The story begins with an account of his first glimpse of the house, his eventual move there, and his first summer there. It abruptly jumps to the death of his mother, more than forty years after the summer of 1946, when Joey moved to the farmhouse. It ends with Joey as inheritor of the house and his own final recognition that, for him, the house was where things were—and always had been—happening during his life. He sees his mother’s buying the house where she was born and moving into it as an attempt on her part to return to what he thinks of as her own paradise, and he ends with the recognition that, unlike her, he cannot even attempt to return to that paradise, in part because it had never been a paradise for him; it could have been, but it never was. He also cannot return because he has robbed it of whatever life and memories could make it into a paradise for him.

In his works, Updike often begins with incidents based on his own life and then reworks them into fictive form. Joey is based on Updike. Many of the things Updike experienced Joey experiences;...

(The entire section is 426 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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.