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Though Ben often plays golf with Ken, he really does not know much about Ken until after Ben has surgery. Ken comes by to see Ben, but the two men do not have much in common. The teenager Doreen hangs out with the three boys who camp out at the edge of Ben's property, the ones who offer Ben so-called protection from other troublesome youths. Ben lusts for Doreen, and Doreen notices. She tells him one day that the boys have told her that Ben can play with her sexually, but he is not to have intercourse with her.
At the end, Doreen is killed or just disappears. Geoff shows up with Perdita during Grandparents' Day at the school of one of Perdita's grandsons. Geoff lives with Perdita. He is an artist and noticeably younger than she. Ben thinks Geoff might be gay.
Gloria hires John to kill the deer that eats her flowers and bushes. John chooses to use a bow and arrow to do so. He arrives near the end of the novel to perform this act. John claims he can feel the deer and patiently waits for weeks before he finally takes the opportunity to kill the deer. Glory believes that John is much more sensitive than Ben, despite the fact that Ben did not have the heart to kill the deer. He is the biggest of the boys and appears to be potentially the most violent. Twenty-three-year-old Deirdre is a prostitute whom Ben often likens to a deer. For instance, he refers to her as brown-skinned and heavily furred.
She comes to Ben's house during Ben's fantasy of having killed Gloria, his second wife. When Deirdre is finished having sex with Ben, she steals items from his house. She never reappears in the story, but she is discussed. She ends up with Phil, who continually refers to her as a whore. In the end, Ben asks Phil about her. Phil insinuates that she has returned to prostitution. With Deirdre, Ben has his most fulfilling sexual experiences. Of the two women with whom Ben lives, Deirdre seems to be the more caring. Gloria, by contrast, seems only to tolerate Ben, maybe for his money.
Manolette is the youngest of the three teenage boys who build a hut on Ben's property. Ben guesses that Manolette is about twelve. He is the quietest and least demanding of the trio. Phil is one of the thugs who come to Ben's house and threaten to hurt him or his property unless Ben pays them for protection. Phil is heavy set and wears crumpled suits. Phil went to school with Deirdre and is not afraid to tell her to keep out of his dealings with Ben.
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When Deirdre leaves Ben, she goes to Phil. At the end of the story, Phil is a FedEx driver. FedEx has taken over the protection business. Ray is one of the older teens who have camped out on Ben's land. Ben refers to Ray as the little lawyer. Ray appears to be the most rational person in the group. Red Ruggles is Ben's golf buddy. Red owns a fish business and is often on his cell phone when the men are together, talking to managers of his business and to international suppliers.
When Red comes to visit Ben after Ben's operation, Ben gets a different impression of the man. He used to tolerate Red when they played golf together, but Ben does not understand why. Spin and his buddy Phil are referred to as the ambassadors. Spin comes to Ben's house to collect protection money. Spin has a red and gray mustache. He often has a toothpick in his mouth. Spin is more aggressive than Phil. In the end, his aggression may contribute to his being brutally murdered.
The teenage boys stone Spin to death, sending a message to Ben that Ben better pay them the protection money he used to give Spin. Allan, Ben's son, has, according to Ben, most closely followed in his father's footsteps. Allan has made his profession in finance. He has two sons, Quentin and Duncan. Ben, the protagonist, grew up poor but made a lot of money working for an investment company. He is now retired and living comfortably but not too happily. Ben has five children, all of them fairly well off financially. He has been married twice.
Neither marriage was successful. He was not faithful to either Perdita, his first wife, or to Gloria, his second wife. However, he seems have been more in love with Perdita than with Gloria. Ben has unsatisfied sexual appetite. He lusts after women, no matter what their ages. He even feels sexually drawn to one of his daughters-in-law.
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He has a low opinion of women, yet he needs them. His sexual drive seems to be his main focus; ironically, he becomes impotent due to prostrate cancer. By the end of the novel, he appears to grasp a hint of an awakening. He has always been observant of nature, but at the end, its beauty is more important to him. Gloria, Ben Turnbull's second wife, likes to rearrange nature. She pushes Ben and seems rather negative toward him. Ben suspects that she wants him dead. She disappears completely for a large section of the book. Ben fantasizes that she is dead. In her absence, Ben invites Deirdre into the house.
Gloria appears to see little worth in Ben. She does not trust him and believes he is not sensitive to her needs. When Ben has his operation, Gloria is distracted by her business and completely withdraws from him. In the end, Gloria shows more feminine warmth toward John, who kills the deer for her, and Phil, who collects protection money from her. She belittles Ben and takes full charge of their lives. Perdita was Ben's first wife. Ben and she met in college. Perdita was an art student. She bore him five children in the course of their marriage.
When Ben sees her during Grandparents' Day celebration at the school of one of their grandsons, he refers to her as the "gaunt old witch" who "contains a beauty that I am one of the last on earth to still descry. One of his affairs was with Gloria, who eventually pulls him away from Perdita. However, Ben does not seem to be completely over Perdita.
He senses his love for her when he sees her. Gloria senses it too and is jealous of Perdita, who may be the only person in the novel for whom Ben has deep feelings. Lust seems to keep Ben alive. Ben's lust broke up his first marriage, driving him toward his second wife. Even though Ben is retired and elderly, his desire for women is constant.
Whenever Ben watches his second wife, Gloria, he sees her in a lustful way and wants to have sexual intercourse with her. But whenever Gloria is away, Ben either fantasizes about bringing another woman into the house or actually sneaks another woman in. If neither of these options works, Ben resorts to his pornographic magazines.
He pays to have a prostitute come to his house. The prostitute is in her twenties, at least forty years younger than Ben.
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After the prostitute leaves him because she is bored, Ben engages sexually relations with a teenage girl who has camped out on his property. When he goes shopping or travels to Boston, he lusts after any attractive woman who crosses his path. Sex seems always to be on his mind. So long as he can dominate a woman, he knows he is superior, that he is himself.
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Ben is diagnosed with prostate cancer and becomes impotent and incontinent afterward his operation. Gloria will have nothing to do with him and even refuses to sleep in the same bed with him. The young teenage girl tells Ben that he can sexually play with her, but he is not allowed to have intercourse with her.
Of course, this restriction is not necessary, since Ben cannot perform sexually anyway. When Ben's body begins to deteriorate, he cannot do much about his sexual appetite. His condition connects with the pervasive decay conveyed through his old age and Ben's thoughts of dying. His sexual impulse also is related to the destruction all around Ben, in his country, his government, and his society. Everything is deteriorating, even the one factor—sexual drive—that has motivated Ben most of his life.
The loss of male sexual prerogative is the chief sign of deterioration and death. Living is reduced to this one dynamic: male sexual gratification through dominating females. But death ultimately levels that hierarchy. Death recurs in the novel. The protagonist is dying. Death is present in many elements in this story.
Ben's journal begins with the first snow then progresses through the seasons, ending with winter once again. Winter suggests death, as leaves fall off the trees and plants die back. Gloria wants a deer killed. Ben refuses to kill it, but by the end of the story, Gloria has found a hunter to do the job. This hunter shoots the deer with a bow and arrow, guts the doe, and offers Ben and Gloria a piece of the meat.
The deer, which caused only minor damage to some of Gloria's plants, is sacrificed. Ben believes that Gloria secretly wants him shot, too. In the end, it is not the hunter but Ben who is sensitive to the cruel fate of the young doe. Then, too, Spin is killed. Spin is kicked and stoned to death by a group of teens who want to prove a point. Spin's death is a message to Ben that he had better meet the teens' demands. Spin's life is meaningless to these young kids, just as meaningless as Ben feels his own life is when he looks up at the huge spaceship in the sky.
These teenagers, then, are eaten by the metallobioforms. These half-mechanical, half-biological widgets are indiscriminate about what they consume. The teens, like the deer, are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and so they are devoured. The title of this story, of course, says it all. The end of time suggests the death of everything: the country, the Earth, the atmosphere, and all forms of life. As Ben ponders his own death, as he experiences the deterioration of his body, he also thinks about the end of everything that he has known.
He realizes that everything eventually dies, just as the Neanderthal population became extinct. This thought presses down on him especially hard as he attempts to make a dollhouse for his daughter. He cannot manage to focus on the project after he realizes that even his daughter will die one day. Everything will disappear, will be wiped out, just as certainly as the war has wiped out vast numbers of people both in the United States and in China. Ben realizes that death may be the only certainty.
With the failure of the government and the erosion of law and order, chaos rules Ben Turnbull's world. At least, Ben calls it chaos. However, in large part, Ben's world is barely affected by the breakdown. There are no police; there is little food left in the stores; thugs demand protection money but offer no services.
Yet Ben continues to play golf, to go on ski trips, to satisfy most of his desires. Is the chaos, then, just an illusion, like some of Ben's fantasies? He imagines having sex with a deer-like creature The deer walks into his house as a deer, but it seems to change once it gets into Ben's bed. Perhaps, Ben only thinks that the deer comes into his house, and he really has sex with a prostitute. Later, however, the prostitute refers to Ben as her husband.
But this is not as strange as Ben believing that he has killed his wife, Gloria. Updike may be exploring the concept of multiple, coexisting realities. Gloria is absent from the scene, and Ben cannot remember where she is or if she is alive. According to him, she may be both dead and alive.
Likewise, Deirdre may be both a deer and a young woman, both a prostitute and Ben's wife. Ben could be both John Mark, a character that he pulls out of history, and himself. He could also be an old, incontinent, and impotent man and someone who is still virile enough to act sexually with a teenage girl.
Ben speaks directly about illusion when he describes the large object that hangs in the sky as a second moon. No one knows for sure what it is, and when it fades into the atmosphere, Ben suggests that the object may, in fact, be the result of mass illusion. Ben also speculates that the beings in the spacecraft may have advanced intelligence.
In order for them to appear in the skies in such a large ship, Ben believes, they must have mastered mind over matter. If they have done so, then perhaps all reality is an illusion. Toward the End of Time presents itself as the journal of the protagonist, Ben Turnbull. The daily details contained in the journal provide the plot. For example, the journal reports on the arrival of Phil and Spin, who demand protection money. These two characters are eventually replaced with the teenaged boys. Their deaths are recounted, too.
The journal also records Ben's sexual encounters, although it is unclear if Ben actually has these experiences or just fantasizes about them. The journal describes Ben's married life with his second wife, Gloria. Readers are privy to the slow disintegration of Ben and Gloria's relationship as Ben gives in to his wife's commands. Ben also records some details concerning his bout with cancer, his operation, and recuperation. But the journal contains more than outward daily occurrences including the seasons as described in terms of the cyclical budding, blossoming, and fading away of plants, which Ben carefully chronicles.
The journal also reflects Ben's emotions as he explores why he reacts to the situations in which he finds himself. These thoughts are often written in a loosely associative way, similar to stream-of-consciousness writing. One thought leads to another, and pretty soon, Ben is off on a tangent that might explore a story from the Bible or a speculation in a scientific magazine. Ben's journal writing is significant to him. Its importance is evident in the frequency of his writing in it and in the periods when he cannot write.
As Ben becomes ill and does not want to write anything in his journal, he leaves lines blank, as if he is honoring the spirit of the journal. This construction in the novel helps the reader to understand Ben better.
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The protagonist shows his vulnerability in his journal, which causes readers to feel more empathy for him. Readers may suspect that Ben can only be honest in his journal. Related to surrealism, magical realism enriches reality by incorporating dimensions of the imagination. Realistic and fantastic parts are presented as equally real, though these disparate parts may fit together quite illogically.
For example, Ben imagines making love to a deer and the action is presented as though it literally occurs or as if the animal morphs into a woman. Gloria wants Ben to shoot the deer, and his feelings extend beyond the ordinary; the deer enters his house, turns into a human being who maintains some deer-like characteristics; and Ben makes love to her. Science fiction is a type of fantasy writing in which scientific information and theories are used as the basis of the story or to explain it.
Several elements in the novel suggest science fiction. For example, Updike creates a huge object in the sky that the narrator sometimes refers to as the second moon. The journal reports that scientists have been unable to detect what the object is. At times, Ben wonders if it is a projection of mass illusion.
However, at other times, Ben believes or at least ponders the possibility that the unknown object is a spaceship, created by beings that are much more advanced than humans. He supports this idea by considering the destruction and chaos caused by a war between the United States and China. Matter and mind on Earth, Ben concludes, are equally vital, whereas those beings in the spaceship surely must have minds that have learned to control matter.
Updike also inserts what he calls metallobio-forms. These science fiction creatures combine inert matter and biological life. The metallobioforms kill humans just as often as humans destroy material objects. Metallobioforms are a strange hybrid of metal and a biological life form. These creatures live underground and can be heard ticking. They rise out of the ground slowly and devour human beings as well as other matter from the ground up. The metallobioforms eventually destroy the teenagers who camp on Ben's land. Science fiction imagines a futuristic world by stretching the limits of the known and taking scientific information and creating something new with it.
In this way, Updike creates a world quite unlike the one inhabited by his readers, an act of imagination which allows the characters to move across realities and extend them. Concepts connected to quantum physics and quantum mechanics are suggested in Updike's novel Toward the End of Time. On the quantum or submicroscopic level of existence, scientists have discovered that tiny bits of matter, such as electrons and protons, have indeterminate being. This means they may or may not exist. They exist as probabilities. In Newtonian physics, larger objects are said to either exist or not exist, but they do not exist as probabilities.
When extremely small bits of matter can be measured, they are said to exist. Scientists have shown that when quantum particles are not seen or cannot be measured, they exist only in what is referred to as potential reality. An electron, for example, can exist in multiple possibilities of realities, like a cloud of possibilities, and is, therefore, said to exist in a superposition.
This is true, however, only as long as it is not observed or measured. Quantum particles can potentially be, therefore, in two different places at once. In his illustration, he suggested that a cat be placed into a steel container. In the container with the cat was a contraption that could possibly open a vial of hydrocyanic acid, which would in turn kill the cat. Those observing the steel container all they could see was the outside walls of the container and not what was inside it could not determine if the contraption had or had not been triggered to release the vial of acid, nor could they determine if the cat was dead or alive.
Superposition is known to exist on the quantum level. Whether it also exists in the larger reality is not known. Throughout his novel, Updike uses concepts associated with quantum physics to create mystery and to suggest multiple levels of reality. The idea that there can be multiple and simultaneous realities suggests that interpretation of the text should remain open-ended. Within this framework, readers are encouraged not to seek a single truth in the details but to focus instead on how multiple levels of reality invite various interpretations of the novel.
In the early s, China was not considered an enemy of the United States; neither was it trusted fully as an ally. One point of disagreement between the two countries concerned Taiwan: China claimed it as its own territory; the U. Despite this potential area of conflict, the United States and China had reasons to work together.
One reason was economical. Between and , U. One country that benefited from this practice was China. While U. In an annual report to Congress presented by the secretary of defense in , China's rapid military expansion was noted. Training as well as military weaponry improved sharply between and , possibly as a result of China's hope to reclaim Taiwan. Were China to try to force Taiwan to give up its independence, the U.
In the early s, the United States supported an independent Taiwan, which broke away from China, both philosophically and politically after the s. China, however, did not recognize the separation and continued to claim Taiwan as one of its provinces. The military buildup in China was seen by the secretary of defense as possibly signaling that China was considering a showdown with the Taiwanese. Updike's Toward the End of Time received mixed reviews. Some critics really liked it; others did not. For instance, a critic for Publishers Weekly commends "this magnificent new novel" for "its futuristic setting.
From another point of view, Jeff Giles, writing for Newsweek , states that Updike's Toward the End of Time "is one of the author's rare misfires, a dull, disjointed roadside accident of a novel. His mind is filled with tawdry images and erotic desires; his attitude toward women is demeaning and contemptible. Writing for the New Statesman , Jan Dalley points out that "to complain about Updike's attitude to women is like complaining that a cat has claws. That is Updike. If you don't like the cat's claws, get a dog. His work is uplifted by a prose style of beauty and precision and a narrative skill of perceptiveness and sensitivity.
Updike is a captivating storyteller with an insightful eye and a wonderful mastery of the English language. His characters are memorable, his dialogue is real, and his plots speak to us with directness and meaning. This is Manley's view before reading Toward the End of Time. After reading this "wretched" book, however, Manley concludes: "Updike is indeed human, maybe not like you and me, but human all the same.
Coming down between the admirers and detractors, Edward B. John, a critic for the Library Journal , describes the novel as "uneven" but nonetheless evincing "the bittersweet, elegiac quality of Rabbit at Rest. Hart is a published author and former writing teacher. In this essay, she examines Updike's descriptions of and references to women in order to explain why some readers think the author is a misogynist.
Some literary critics, even those who do not refer to themselves as feminists, have stated that John Updike, as represented through some of his writing including Toward the End of Time is a misogynist. As a matter of fact, there is a lot of reading material on the subject, including interviews in which Updike confronts this charge and does not quite conclude that his critics are in error. Misogyny is the hatred of women. The Greek roots of this word are "misein," which means "to hate," and "gyne," which means "woman. In all, the prejudice assumes that women are inferior to men or are to be used by men.
Possibly even the misogynist does not always recognize his prejudice. Misogyny may be subconscious, acted out without the person who has the prejudice recognizing his own bias. However, there are telltale signs of misogyny and a whole vocabulary of reasons for it. The intent of this essay is not to analyze misogyny but rather to examine how Updike refers to women in Toward the End of Time in order to explain how he may have earned this label. There are four types of women in Updike's novel: the wife, the daughter, the lover, and the prostitute.
These types are not always mutually exclusive and discrete. For example, the prostitute type and the wife may overlap at one point and the daughter step-daughter, daughter-in-law sometimes overlaps with the lover. Noting how Updike describes these different types, portrays them, and then has his protagonist, Ben Turnbull, react to them, should indicate some of the beliefs that the author has about women, or if not the author's concept then the concept of the narrator who may serve as the author's mouthpiece.
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First is Ben's current wife, Gloria. Ben states quite noisily throughout his journal that Gloria wants to control everything in her presence. She wants to control Ben, her business, and all of nature that surrounds her. She wants deer killed, trees uprooted, and flowers encouraged, all according to her definition of aesthetics. Gloria, as Ben depicts her, is a bully. She calls Ben "a bastardly coward," when he refuses to shoot the deer that eats her shrubs. I AM moving abroad but feel guilty that I will be leaving my elderly mum with only my sister to care for her. If my partner and I do not move, he will lose a great job opportunity and it could ruin our relationship too.
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