Monday, May 11, 2009

26. Rabbit Run – John Updike.

History: Published in 1960, Updike said that he wrote Rabbit, Run in response to Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and tried to depict "what happens when a young American family man goes on the road – the people left behind get hurt." It spawned several sequels.
Plot: Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is 26, has a job selling kitchen gadgets, and is married to Janice, a former salesgirl at the store where he works. They have a two-year-old son named Nelson in a suburb in Pennsyvania. He believes that his marriage is a failure and that something is missing from his life. Having been a basketball star in high school, Harry finds middle-class family life unsatisfying. On the spur of the moment, he decides to drive south in an attempt to escape. He soon returns home, however, where he visits his old basketball coach, Marty Tothero. Tothero introduces Rabbit to Ruth Leonard, who is a part-time prostitute, and they begin a three month affair. During this time, Janice moves back into her parents' house. Rabbit, jealous of a past fling between Ruth and a local man, compels Ruth to perform fellatio, and on the same night Janice goes into labor. Rabbit leaves Ruth and rushes to the hospital. Janice gives birth to a baby girl, whom she and Rabbit name Rebecca June. Rabbit returns to live with his wife, and accepts a job at his father-in-law's car dealership. Rabbit attends church one morning, and fueled by the flirtatious overtones, Lucy Eccles, the minister's wife, makes an ambiguous invitation to Rabbit to come into the Eccles' home. When he refuses, she slams the door on him. Rabbit returns to his apartment, encourages Janice to have a whiskey, then pressures her toward having sex in spite of her postnatal condition. When she refuses Rabbit leaves and turns back to Ruth.
Fearing Rabbit has abandoned her again, Janice begins drinking heavily that morning, and accidentally drowns their infant daughter. Rabbit returns to Janice and Nelson, suggesting reconciliation is possible as Rabbit seeks peace. Tothero visits Rabbit and suggests that the thing he is looking for probably does not exist. At the child's funeral, Rabbit's internal and external conflicts result in a sudden proclamation of his innocence in the baby's death. He then runs from the graveyard, pursued by Jack Eccles, until he becomes lost.
After wandering in the woods, Rabbit returns to Ruth and learns of her pregnancy. Though Rabbit is relieved to discover she has not had an abortion, he is unwilling to divorce Janice. Rabbit abandons Ruth, chasing the fleeting feeling he has attempted to grasp during the course of the novel. Rabbit's fate is uncertain as the novel concludes.
Review: John Updike has said that the book is a product of the fifties and not really in a conscious way about" the fifties. The book aptly reflects the American world at that time, in often dazzling detail. The book was recognized as reflecting "characteristics of society at that time": individualism, immaturity, religiosity, and love of sports.I fell for Updike when I bought the book Couples at a yard sale. Then I read him exclusively for a few months. However I never loved the Rabbit character even though it was the most famous. The hidden suburban character.
Opening Line: “Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it.”
Closing Line: “His hands lift of their own and he feels the wind on his ears even before, his heels hitting heavily on the pavement at first but with an effortless gathering out of a kind of sweet panic growing lighter and uicker and quieter, he runs. Ah: runs, runs.
Quotes: “He feels frightened. When confused, Janice is a frightening person.”
“It was the tall, silver, serious figure of his wife that acculmulated the charge of his wrongdoing, and released it to their young minds with an electrical shock that snaped their eyes away rom the signt of her, in fear as much as embarrassment.”
Rating: Very Good

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