Rumor/The Awaking

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THE AWAKING John Updike, "The Rumor" graphically depicts the rumor in a way that expresses doubt and distrust within a marriage. As we all know this can happen. It also shows how it can innocently make one aware of something hidden.

In the first paragraph of this story, Updike talks about the couple, Frank and Sharon Whittier. He takes you through some twenty years of their married life. This to me gave a good setting because we learned very early in the story that they have been married a long time. They seem to be happy and they have three children. Their oldest is just starting college. Updike tells us the rumor in the first sentence of the second paragraph. That Frank had left Sharon for a homosexual affair. Updike wants us to believe that Sharon does not believe this rumor because Updick states "she had to laugh, for far from having left her, there he was"(114).

If Sharon believes this is not true, why does she ask Frank about it? Updike writes that Frank has had an affair with Avis, the woman who has told his wife about the rumor. Which makes me ask the question, was this rumor started because of a scorned woman? Now Frank has to deny this rumor to Sharon. "I don't have a homosexual lover"(115) and continues with " Don't you know me"(116).

The author is implying by the severe tone, he is hurt that she does not believe him when Frank states "I'm deeply insulted" (116). Maybe Updike wants us to realize that the rumor should not have been repeated because there is no room for rumors in a marriage, if that marriage is secure.

With doubt in Sharon's mind, she begins to question Frank's sexuality. She watches what he does. "She helplessly watched to see if in the metropolitan throngs in his eyes now followed young men as once they had noticed and followed young women."(116). Updike makes Sharon out to be somewhat unsure of herself. Frank confronted her, "What is it that brothers you Sharon? The idea of losing me? Or the insult to your female pride."(117). Given the depiction of this woman, what is the reader to conclude about her? After Sharon hears the rumor, she imagined it everywhere. It seems to consume her to have a mind of its own. "Woman embraced her with an extra squeeze, she felt herself ensnared in a soft net of unspoken pity." Does Updike want us to believe she is uncertain about who and what she is? After weeks of dealing with this rumor, the stares, the looks, the whispers, and the gentle gestures that people had been giving them. Updike decides to end this rumor by having them meet up with the person that had started it, Walton Forney. "It was Charlie Witfield"(120). Who had run off with his homosexual lover. Forney tells Frank it was a slip "It was-what do they call it-a Freudian slip, an understandable confusion"(120). Frank told Forney that "We rose above it."(120). The truth is it bothered the both of them. Updike then does not let Sharon apologize, he lets her sleep in it.

The twist at the end when Updike writes the final sentence "The rumor might be dead in the world, but in him it had become alive"(121). I believe the story was adding up to this. When Updike refers to Franks father "More broadly, had he not felt more comfortable with his father than with his mother"(118)? Is Updike using Freud theory that man, when closer to their father seems to have homosexual feelings? Updike tries to give the impression that Frank just needed this rumor to come to grips with his true feelings. When he starts to give description of the characters that Frank meets. Franks goes into detail of the men he has encountered "Wes's scowling presence, his melancholy scarred face,"¦perversely excited Frank, made him want to flirt"(119). "The boy had a bony, rueful face, with a silvery line of a scar under one eye"¦it pleased Frank to imagine that Jojo was beginning to realize it"(121). As if wanting this rumor to be true because it had awakened feelings he never knew he had.