Stella Dinielli's Reviews > Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run by John Updike
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's review
Nov 15, 2011

really liked it

It's the year 1959 and Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is only 26 years old but already finds himself in a dead-end life defined by sippy cups, bills, responsibility and is “immersed with hate”. He is married with a 2-year-old son and although they are hardly able to financially take care themselves as it is, they have another child due in a couple months. Rabbit finds the most joy out of going to the local basketball court and being included in the game by the local neighborhood boys. Eight years earlier he had been the star of his high school team, and basketball was a promise of wealth and success, not just a leisure activity played at the community center. At the beginning of the story, Rabbit gets home and instead of finding his wife in an apron, tending the house and children like women were expected to at this time in America, his wife Janice is drunk (yes whilst pregnant) and watching television. He learns that his son is not in the house, but rather with his grandparents. He takes this opportunity to run for the hills and escape the constraints of his life and starts driving. He has decided to head south, completely abandoning his wife and toddler son. At first, Rabbit’s life was defined with endless thoughts such as “Is it just these people I’m outside or is it all America?”, but it is at this point in the story his life becomes defined by his impulses; he doesn’t ever look back on or contact the family he abandoned. Remember that this novel was published in the 1950’s, a time when American’s were used to the standard ‘father knows best’ type of plots, and with this novel Updike breaks the mold and writes a story of greed, selfishness (“If you have the guts to be yourself, other people will pay your price”) and ugliness. This was a time that American’s placed all their faith and beliefs in religion, so Updike confronting them with “Janice and Rabbit become unnaturally still; both are Christians. God’s name makes them feel guilty” induced a culture shock in readers at the time. “Rabbit, Run” is a novel written so well that the writing shines through enough for readers to put aside their disdain for the characters and their actions and still thoroughly enjoy it. John Updike knew that “Rabbit Run” would cause controversy and be immediately written off as scandalous garbage if he didn’t portray the story eloquently enough. And that’s exactly what he did; he presented his readers with an unattractive story attractively, and this is a lesson that can’t be learned enough for an up and coming writer as myself.

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