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Literary Analysis of “Summer” by David Updike

It has been very truly said that “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Seasons play a vital role in the ever changing moods of a person’s life and they even portray the different phases of life, from youth to middle age and from middle age to old age. “Summer” by David Updike starts with the description of the weather that encompasses the whole story and its characters, and that eventually holds the central theme of change and attraction. Updike tells of the first week in August; “The time when summer briefly pauses, shifting between its beginning and its end” (Updike 355).Through this writer very successfully draws the reader into the depth of the summer season and the reader for a while finds himself breathing amid warm nights, the green leaves and the entire air of the summer. The setting of summer, with its warm nights and sunny days, vibrant leaves and pleasantness of the air symbolizes the youthfulness and hidden ecstasies of the youth. Homer, the protagonist, living by the lake and forest is carried away by this setting of carefree and lively days. The romantic aura of the summer eventually brings about the subtle drift in Homer’s youthful attractions towards a girl. The change is, more particularly, from the placid and vigorous joys of youth to a more solemn and unplanned temptation of love and possession.

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A significant feature in this story is the lake. The lake symbolizes a feeling of eternal calmness and symbolizes a friend to Homer, as it seems to witness the transition of a boy to a man. Homer often wakes up to find Mrs. Thyme sitting alone “looking out across the flat stillness of the lake” (Updike 355). As he sits by the window by the lake and reads his book, he finds himself amused by the presence of Sandra, sister of his friend Fred. The lake and the summer’s exuberant setting makes the picture complete, which instills his attraction towards her. Homer’s boyish activities and thoughts are gradually prevailed over by the very distant-looking image of Sandra. The way she sits by the lakeside and enjoys the summer heat, the way she goes back, and the sound of her taking the shower all prevail over him. Sitting by the lake or while playing tennis, he is unable to help himself but keeps staring at her retreating figure.

Homer somehow realizes that his present state might be due to his surroundings “Was it the condensed world of the lake, the silent reverence of the surrounding woods, mountains which heightened the sense of her” (Updike 356). But somehow Sandra seems unaware of Homer’s feelings towards her. Amid the inherent sadness of the story and its characters, somehow Updike has been successful in inducing a touch of sweetness in this story. There is a surpassingly romantic notion of a man falling in love with a girl who seems to be unaware of it, responding to his every gesture of love with apparent indifference. Homer is not following his instincts subconsciously. He realizes Sandra’s coldness and often he “resolved to release his love, give it up because it was too disruptive to his otherwise placid life” (Updike 357). Here again, the change that Sandra’s presence is trying to create in his life is obvious, from a placid buoyant life towards a solemn and thoughtful one.

Meanwhile, Homer’s friendship with Fred is in full swing and grows stronger. Fred’s character in the story is very quiet and indifferent like he does not know anything. His character strongly symbolizes the summer breeze that is around and sees everything but does not disrupts. They seem to enjoy life as two young boys usually do. But amid his boyish life with Fred in the tranquil setting of the season, Homer’s thoughts are more strongly shaken by the presence of Sandra. He experiences a feeling of longing for Sandra and it seems that he wants her to acknowledge those feelings. Her indifference is somehow making him more anxious. Updike has very beautifully described the growing feeling of Homer’s uncertainty with the help of changing seasons. “Life of summer went on in the silent knowledge that, with slow inexorable seepage of an hourglass, it was turning into fall”. (Updike 358) The story ends as fall creeps in when at last Homer’s waiting is paid off and finally Sandra ends her indifference towards him. A small notion in the lounge, in the presence of the family, eventually said everything he had longed to hear. It seems as if the disruption in Sandra’s subtle attitude is brought by the rain that marks the approaching fall. Summer had kept in her a calm and quiet storm that broke away as fall approached.

David Updike has beautifully portrayed the feelings in this story by relating them with the season “summer”. Just as in summers everything seems so fresh and full of life. When flowers blossoms everywhere and when the light wind brings a feeling of freshness, in the same way, love nourishes and blossoms in Homer’s heart. The heart sing songs just like the breeze of summer. The summer season has in itself an inherent bliss that symbolizes the quiet and reflective personality of Homer. The presence and portrait of Sandra in Homer’s eyes mark the pleasant aura of summer.


John D. Ramage, John C. Bean, Junr Johnson. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing.

ESV.Bible. English Standard Version. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Literary Analysis of “Summer” by David Updike." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Literary Analysis of “Summer” by David Updike." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Literary Analysis of “Summer” by David Updike'. 21 November.

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