Separating is considered to be one of John Updike's short stories focused on an upper-middle class American family. The story is a portrayal of common family that experiences emotional strife Richard and Joan Maples go through divorce and try to explain this fact to their children. Moreover, Richard Maple is the main protagonist of the story, which contains also some features of antagonist while he is admitted to be the only person responsible for divorce. Therefore, transformation of committed, romantic relationship can be regarded as the leading of Updike's short story. In comparison, Walt Whitman's poem I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak also shares the similar theme. This poem is a great example of inherent Whitman use of self-analysis, motives of loneliness, and homosexual elements. The protagonist of the poem compares his life with a Live-Oak growing that symbolizes his feeling of loneliness, man's friendship, and eventually life of the narrator. Thus, Separating and I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing are two literary pieces that represent transformation of committed, romantic relationship portrayed in different ways.
To start with, Separating, as well as, I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing, is a symbolic story. The last name of the family is Maple the strong and enduring tree but regardless this, their marriage is broken apart, we do not love each other (James & Merickel 412). In Whitman's poem, Live-Oak is a symbol of protagonist's life that depicts not only physical human features such as “rude, unbending, lusty look, but also emotional ones, sharing the ability for feelings and relationships, "Without any companion it grew there" (James & Merickel 208). Furthermore, both literary pieces are filled with the emotional impact: Separating is concerned with the effect that may cause dissolution of marriage on the family, while I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing represents emotional link between nature and narrator that unlike the tree cannot live in isolation from his friend or his lover.
In addition to this, transformation of the romantic relationship is evident both in Updike's short story and Whitman's poem. In Separating, Richard and Joan Maples represent pretty common married couple on the verge of the divorce, but they do not express violence or discord to each other. Richard's reasons for separation are questioned throughout the story, and John's rhetorical question Why forces Richard to realize that he has forgotten the reason himself (James &] Merickel 416). Furthermore, Dickie passionate as a woman kiss is not a demonstration of physical affection, it is an expression of confusion that shows children’s reaction on the situation (James & Merickel 416). Therefore, the transformation of the romantic relationship becomes a painful longing of love that has been lost. Compared to Updike's Separation, the protagonist of Whitman’s poem is also helplessly absorbed in his thoughts and emotions regarding the Live-Oak. The narrator of the poem goes through homosexual aspects in comparison with the tree's twig that remains to me a curious token; it makes me think of manly love] (James & Merickel 209). Moreover, the protagonist referred to manly love, and on the same time stated that while the tree was able to grow in loneliness, he could not do the same and live without friends. Therefore, the protagonist concludes that despite sharing similar traits with the Live-Oak he needs somebody to love and have the relationship.
The message conveyed through Separating and I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing is simple, but at the same it is pretty strong. John Updike and Walt Whitman raised the question of transformation of the romantic relationship, and instead of simply stating the message, writers use the examples of questioned reasons, for divorce Dikie’s kiss, as well as, the oak tree. Richard acknowledges his true feelings about wife, as well as Witman's narrator realizes his feelings towards friends that he does not recognize at the beginning of the poem. Both protagonists need companionship and love, but the awareness of this issue just begins to appear in their minds.
James, Missy, Merickel, Alan P. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc., 2013. Print.