John Updike's "Separating" is a story of a failed marriage and its" affect upon all of those involved. Written in a rhythmic manner, the story weaves through the emotions and feelings of the father, Richard. Upon multiple occasions, Richard responds and reacts to the sentiments triggered by his surrounding environment. Thus, the element of setting develops into a crucial factor in creating the frame of the work. Through metaphorical diction, the background of the story's plot is conveyed through the in-congruencies between the physical and emotional atmospheres.
Richard and his family, the Maples, appear to be living in an almost paradise-like region. Images of a "metallic blue river, the emerald marsh,"(69) and "the scattered islands" with their "white bits of beach"(69), imply such a beautiful setting. Overall, the aspects of the entire physical atmosphere are positive and optimistic. A place where happiness, "like the sunlight"(66) should "continue relentlessly"(66). However, the cheerful habitat the Maples posses directly contradicts the tone of the story. The deep turmoil between Richard and his wife, Joan, is directly overshadowed by the "golden shafts and cascades of green"(65) created by the ever present sunlight. Almost mocking the Maples, as their depressing predicament makes them an all out "stain in nature"(65). .
These implied metaphors compliment the concept that the physical atmosphere proves to be the exact opposite of what is going on inside the Maple household. One can deduce that the Maples are at least an upper-middle class family. They have what seems to be a nice house, with sufficient room for each of the four children. The Maples even make enough money to pay for the bulldozing of a their own clay tennis court. On the outside they appear as a normal family, a possible divorce is something that happens to families that demonstrate sign of a physical deterioration, not a family that seems so fundamentally stable and secure like the Maples.