Under the Microscope
A Short Story by John Updike
Published between 1953-1975
Illustrated by Laura Burris
Under the Microscope is an inquisitive story about plankton mingling at a fancy house party. Set in a microscopic pool, Carlyle Cyclops – a humble, yet well-known writer – has been invited by his extravagant friend, Delores Daphnia, to wine and dine with the pond’s finest. As Carlyle makes his way around he meets an emotional young water-mite, and a bothersome fan of his work. Amongst the guests is an odd juxtapose of cannibalism and sophistication as the reality of their barbaric nature may parallel our own human culture. Although Carlyle has a unique understanding of and appreciation for life, he mostly observes the surrounding chaos with muted detachment, until he too is eaten out of pity.
Character Description – Carlyle Cyclops
Carlyle is a Copepod. He is of medium build with a transparent, bluish-green shell exterior and spidery limbs. His one large eye and thin mouth effectively express his observant, thoughtful personality. As he analyzes the horrors and beauties of life, his hopefulness for the plankton race is clouded by all he sees.
Background Description & Development
What I hope to illustrate is an elaborately hip, mid-century home with scientific influence. The watery environments’s natural colors will create the ambiance of the setting while odd-shaped furniture and prints complete the decor. I want the characters to be more prominent than their surroundings, so I plan to use watercolor for the background and gouache for the plankton.
The overall look is a plankton’s attempt to cover up the murkiness of their pond with fashion & sophistication… which makes for a funky atmosphere.