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by John Updike
Rabbit, Run Chapter 15 Summary
When he gets to the hospital he has to wait. In the waiting room a woman introduces herself to him as Harriet Tothero. Rabbit tells her his name. She then remembers it. She says Tothero really liked him, that he’d spoken of him recently. Rabbit wonders if she knows what he did. He asks about Tothero being sick and hears he’s had two strokes. She invites, and Rabbit agrees to see him. Rabbit tells Tothero about Janice and the baby and goes to shake his hand and is shocked by his deterioration. Mrs. Tothero explains he’s lost his motor skills and speech but that sight and hearing are intact. Rabbit finds her a bit “sinister.” Rabbit touches Tothero’s hand and is repulsed when it moves in response. Rabbit is getting freaked out by Tothero’s eyes and he wills himself to speak, thanking him for all he’s done for him. Tothero looks at Harriet. She doesn’t see him, but is looking out the window, which surprises Rabbit. He bids Tothero adieu and Tothero suddenly looks all together again, like he will speak. Rabbit thinks he’s toying with him, like when he was coach. But the moment stretches and fades and Tothero becomes unknowable again. Rabbit, feeling like a failure, says goodbye to Mrs. Tothero and then he goes to Janice. The visit doesn’t meet his expectations. She is complaining of pain. She doesn’t pay attention to his apologies. They talk about the Eccles. They argue about Rabbit’s apprehension of people. He says he was comfortable with Tothero. She wants to know he’s comfortable with her. She complains of pain. She thinks he must not be comfortable or he would not have gone. He brings up her drinking and lack of activity. He says he knows it wasn’t right, but that he felt like he was buried alive. He explains that he didn’t intend to leave. She acts uninterested. He says: “Shit.” She doesn’t like the language and brings up his “prostitute.” He explains that Ruth was more like a heavy dater. He accuses her of calling Ruth a prostitute because she wasn’t married to Rabbit. She asks where he is staying. He wants to go back to their place with Nelson. He is amazed she didn’t hold on to it, that she doesn’t know what happened to their stuff. She says she was busy with the pregnancy. He says it’s more that she doesn’t care. She tells him to listen to himself and he does and remembers how he felt after the baby was born. He tries to get back there and they exchange I love yous. Then Janice asks for money for the TV. They watch a show that purports to be about older women receiving money for telling the audience about their problems. The louder the applause, the more they get. The MCs performance and his product plugs dominate the program though. He thinks the MagiPeel Peeler will get a plug but it doesn’t. “He and Janice hold hands.” He takes care of her. Then the nurse says he can come see the baby. He walks behind her and admires her backside. His thoughts drift to the TV show and the nurse holding his baby up on the other side of the viewing glass comes suddenly. He finds the child wonderful; he is amazed. He is surprised he can tell she is a girl, so different from how Nelson was. The nurse puts the bay back to bed and Rabbit goes back to Janice, high on life. He wants to name her June, after her birth month. Janice wants to name her Rebecca after Mrs. Springer. Rabbit wants Janice to like her mother more and so they name the baby Rebecca June.
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