John Updike's Works

Janice Tsai

Existence is like a creature that hides and then reveals itself. Existence is defined in Webster?s New World Dictionary as the "state or fact of being." This existence strives to reach truth which is located beyond space and time, yet truth must be grasped by existence nevertheless. This is accomplished through ritual, which can bring about the capturing of the inconceivable.

Edward P. Vargo stated that John Updike uses ritual "to fulfill the great desire of capturing the past, to make the present meaningful through connection with the past, to overcome death, and to grasp immortality" (Contemporary Vol. 7 487). He combines the aspects and meaning of seemingly unimportant ritual along with mankind?s desire for a relationship with God to form truth and value for the past, present, and future. Updike uses his talents as a writer to bring together the conceivable and the inconceivable.

John Updike implements his philosophies and ideals in a way that brings together existence with meaning. "Updike is in the best sense of the word an intellectual novelist, a novelist of paradox, tension and complexity who as a college wit in the fifties learned that we are all symbols and inhabit symbols" (World 3752). Updike uses his beliefs to form stronger meanings in his writings.

John Updike has a strong faith in human intelligence. He believes that people can use it to explore the universe. He finds the world "to be a place of intricate and marvelous patterns of meaning" (Contemporary Vol. 5 449). With this faith he is able to bring things into focus that would not ordinarily be seen. "I describe things not because their muteness mocks our subjectivity but because they seem to be masks for God. . ." (Contemporary Vol. 7 486). Updike is able to see past the facade of normal, ordinary life.

John Updike uses his insights in his writing to emphasize human feelings. He suggests in his writings that "the human conscience constantly suffers guilt for transgressing the laws of two different moralities" (World 3754). John Updike recognizes this feeling of guilt and is more able to clearly show the connections of the past to the present. His writings are also able to capture a "sense of human incompleteness, of the sense of discrepancy between actual and the ideal" (Magill?s 1988). He shows how humans strive to overcome these feelings.

John Updike fulfills his philosophies with the usage of his characters. He sees them as "many-sided and intellectual designs." He takes an interest in them, and they have meaning. Updike sees his books "as objects, with different shapes and textures and the mysteriousness of anything that exists." He feels that an artist "brings something into the world that didn?t exist before" and does not destroy something else at the same time (World 3752). The implementation of his characters brings out his beliefs to their fullest.

John Updike uses his talents in his writing to connect humanity to all things present in the universe. He shows how existence is meaningful through the past and the present. He writes in a way that creates new ideas and frames of thought. To him, everything must have a purpose and a meaning; and he is able to use his insights to draw that to attention.

Since the beginning of time, man has struggled to comprehend God and the heavens. John Updike writes about God and the relationship with man. Man has always sought to reach immortality, yet is impeded by humanity.

John Updike shaped his religious beliefs from the teachings of "Karl Barth and his predecessor Kierkegaard." He [Updike] was drawn to the insistence that God is the "Wholly Other," and that "man cannot reach God and that only God can touch man" (Broadening 280). This suggests that God has a great hold over man and that He has a power to change things in our daily routines.

Morality is an issue in religion and in aspects of humankind. Man has tried to become more moral through God, yet there are great differences between God and the role of God that Mankind assumes. "Updike has often quoted approvingly [of] Barth?s remark that ?one cannot speak of God by speaking of man in a loud voice.? For both men the distinction between the divine and the human is absolute" (World 3754). Man will never reach the standard of God, yet they will continue