Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The plot of “Walter Briggs” is a straightforward sequence of events, starting in the car in the drive from Boston and ending late that same night. The bulk of the action, however, is retrospective in that it takes place in the memory of the main character. Still, the emphasis is not in the events themselves, but on what they reveal about the protagonist and the effect they have on him. The journey as a plot device is a common one, and it is appropriate here in that it serves as a metaphor for Jack’s journey into a part of his past self that had been forgotten.

Jack’s character is revealed primarily through the exchanges with Clare. However, it is a very subtle dialogue in that the thrusts and parries of the conversation as well as the underlying hostility between Jack and his wife are artfully concealed beneath the banal observations of a somewhat bored couple on a tedious automobile trip. As often occurs in real life, the major issues between Jack and his wife are not directly stated but are indirectly brought out and then passed by as the conversation quickly shifts to another person or incident. In the end, Jack is revealed as a complex and dynamic character with very human failings yet also a person to like and perhaps admire. The author shows Jack as a person capable of change who manages to extract something permanently valuable from an unpromising evening in a car.

The point of view is limited omniscience; the story is told in the third person through...

(The entire section is 609 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.