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July 8, 2017


The Alligators

by N@ncy

  • Author: John Updike
  • Title:  The Alligators
  • Olinger Stories
  • Published: 1960
  • Trivia:  Olinger, Pennsylvania is a rural fictional town.
  • It is the setting for these  first 11 stories in the book
  • The Early Stories 1953-1975
  • Olinger is based on Updike’s boyhood town of  Shillington, Pennsylvania
  • #DealMeIn2017   Challenge



  1. Joan Edison 
  2. …is the new girl in 5th grade.
  3. Everybody hated her.
  4. She had….”show-off clothes and her hair left
  5. hanging down the back of her fuzzy sweater.”
  6. Charlie
  7. He has a plan to make himself more popular.
  8. He draws pictures of “Joan the Dope.”
  9. …the the ‘gang’ will know he supports their bullying of Joan.


Title:   The Alligators

  1. The dream sequence in the story is the only mention of alligators.
  2. Joan is swimming in a river of alligators = mean children in the class.
  3. Charlie sweeps down  to rescue her from their cruelty.


Image:    Alligators
  1. An alligator knows what it wants, gets it,
  2. ….has no regrets about what it conceives as good.
  3. Charlie wants to be popular, be accepted by the ‘gang’.
  4. The predatory  characteristic of the alligator is seen in  Charlie.
  5. Charlie teases and bullies  Joan for personal gain via his drawings.


First impression: after reading the story:

  • The story drips of nostalgia.
  • Updike writes about Berks county childhood.
  • He remembers an unrequited crush on a 5th grade girl Joan.
  • Updike conveys remembered sensation and emotion.
  • Mood: the story has a bittersweet tang.



  • Epiphany moment: 
  • Charlie realizes he is in love with Joan.


  • Character revealed:
  • Charlie is ready to defy  the gang and
  • rescue Joan from their taunts.


  • Realization:
  • Joan rejects Charlie.


  • Disillusionment:
  • Charlie’s  plan backfires.
  • He has lost everything.
  • Everybody loves her…..and hates him.
  • He is even less popular than before!
  • Charlie is…
  • neither wanted in ‘the gang‘ or needed by Joan.
  • “The only successful  love is unrequited love. ” (Proust)
Read more from short story

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