The Power in "The Rumor"; on John Updike's "The Rumor"

Essay by HerbertGibsonUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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The Power in "The Rumor"

John Updike's story "The Rumor" is about the struggle of a married couple to maintain their normal (and rather boring) existence amid rumors that Frank Whittier, the husband in this modern couple, is having a homosexual affair with a young man. The rumor that begins the story brings a sense of tension between Frank and his wife, Sharon. This tension is heightened by the way that Frank at once denies the rumor and yet keeps his wife nervous by flirting with men throughout the story. Eventually, Frank finds a new power through his experience with this rumor. Frank Whittier is an interesting and memorable character, then, because of the way he took a negative situation and flipped it into a positive, found the boldness to challenge his wife as she challenged him, and eventually found a new power within himself.

First of all, it is interesting to note that Frank Whittier seems to be caught in a compromising situation early in the story.

There is a rumor that he has a gay lover; a rumor he denies. Yet he can not prove his innocence to his wife. He is already under her suspicion because of an affair he had years earlier. So he is therefore trapped, having this rumor constantly held over him by his wife. The text states that, "now that she was alert to the rumor's vaporous presence, she imagined it everywhere" (Updike ##). Frank's situation, therefore can be seen as rather sticky and uncomfortable. But Frank was able to find a way to flip the situation around. Near the end of the story, Frank comes to realize that because his wife actually believed the rumor up to a point, she had subconsciously let her fear for Frank's sexuality...