© 2015 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run


by John Updike

Rabbit, Run Chapter 16 Summary

  • Luckily, Janice’s dad kept the rent paid and Rabbit and Nelson are having fun together cleaning up. Rabbit is good with appliances and good at cleaning.
  • Nelson, almost three, helps.
  • Rabbit looks at the view from his place, sees a tenement building that was built higher than the apartment. He thinks that all tall things are dwarfed by the mountain.
  • Wilbur Street is actually really not far from the woods.
  • In the other direction, Rabbit admires the valley and thinks of it as his.
  • Everything inside his apartment, the mess and cramp, matches up in his mind with a memory. Nelson knows where all his stuff is.
  • He shows Rabbit a duck Janice’s mother had given him.
  • He asks if Rabbit has been “at the hospital” like Janice, who he knows will be out on Friday.
  • Rabbit says he hasn’t been at the hospital, that he’s been “away” and Nelson marvels at the word. Nelson says “long” and spreads his arms to demonstrate.
  • Rabbit reassures him of his presence. They visit Mrs. Smith so Rabbit can resign.
  • He’s decided to sell used cars for Mr. Springer.
  • He introduces Mrs. Springer and Nelson and, while she looks for candy, Rabbit looks at her paintings.
  • He focuses on what must be a painting of the Greek myth where Leda is raped by Zeus in his swan form. Then he focuses on a lifelike painting of a woman with a cross expression.
  • Mrs. Smith comes in and complains about the painting that she sat for when she was young. She thinks it makes her look cross. She lets Nelson choose a candy.
  • Rabbit tries to influence his choice, but she doesn’t let him. He brings up the resignation, explains why.
  • She understands and tells him: “It’s been a religious duty to me, taking care of Horace’s garden.” She says she won’t live to see next year’s rhododendrons.
  • She says Rabbit kept her alive. She says this very sincerely, not like to make him feel guilty for leaving. She tells him: “You have a proud son; take care.”
  • He wants to reciprocate her deep feeling.
  • He thinks she’s means him to be proud of and take care of Nelson. They all say goodbye.
  • The next week he and Nelson have good times walking and they watch old men play softball at the high school.
  • The spectators are young boys and Rabbit remembers that age.
  • They go to the playground and Rabbit tries to help Nelson overcome his fear of swings.
  • Rabbit thinks he’s left an indefinite (at least to us) something behind now forever, whether he likes it or not. He feels that the act of having children makes life less full and provokes both inner and outer decay.
  • Nelson and Rabbit go to Mrs. Springer’s.
  • “Nelson loves her, and this makes Rabbit like her.”
  • He doesn’t take the bait she persistently offers.
  • He admits all his shortcomings. She doesn’t bother him the way his parents do.
  • They hang out and she disses the Fosnacht’s son, then mother.
  • He appreciates what Peggy Fosnacht did for Janice, but doesn’t argue because he likes talking to her this way.
  • He gets sleepy talking to her, unable to properly rest at night. It wasn’t so nice when they visited his mother:
  • Rabbit is going on about how wonderful the Springers are and everything they have done.
  • His mother surprises him by asking what will happen to “poor” Ruth.
  • He says she can manage on her own, but feels like that’s not really true.
  • She says she won’t say more, and Rabbit thinks the cold way she treats Nelson holds a message. Nelson seems scared.
  • Rabbit can’t believe she’s using Nelson like this. He even “stops liking” her for it.
  • He doesn’t understand why she isn’t proud of him.
  • The awkwardness continues when Mr. Angstrom comes in.
  • Things get ugly when Angstrom asks his grandson if he wants to play ball when he grows up. Mrs. Angstrom says his little Springer hands won’t let him.
  • This makes Rabbit “like the kid less” and “hate” Mrs. Angstrom for making him feel that way. He wants to leave before he hates her completely.
  • He asks about his sister. Apparently, she isn’t around much.
  • Rabbit is bummed out when they leave.
  • Rabbit is fine unless Nelson is asleep. He has nothing to do and gets scared.
  • He fools around the apartment.
  • He can’t sleep, thinking of his last moments with Ruth, and connecting that to his mother being mean and not saying what she’s thinking.
  • He thinks of Harrison and Margaret and Tothero. He is afraid to think of Tothero and Ruth. And he’s really afraid of Janice coming home.
  • He thinks of Lucy Eccles and masturbates to his fantasy of her.
  • He still doesn’t really fall asleep, he thinks of Lucy more. Then he drifts to the couple in West Virginia and thinks he should have gone the way they were going and, then, thinks that somehow he is going with them.
  • Before it’s light, he wakes up “with the fear that Nelson has died.”
  • The approaching dawn casts shadows on his bed that look like a spider’s web and he only catches a few winks before Nelson gets up. Janice and Rebecca come home as scheduled.
  • Rabbit is blissed out on the baby’s presence.
  • He is full of admiration for Janice’s overflowing breasts and he and Nelson both want to be a part of the nursing process. Nelson has to be told no, but Rabbit is satisfied watching.
  • Janice is still bashful about her body, but not nearly as much as before. She seems at home with her body as a “pliant machine for fucking, feeding, and hatching.”
  • Rabbit knows she’s in pain still but wants to make love. Her stance in sleep tells him no, and he lovingly holds back.
  • Eccles wants them to go to his church on Sunday. Janice is too tired, home from the hospital nine days now. With Rabbit now working, she is exhausted and down.
  • Rabbit is pleased to go. He wants to express gratitude for his newfound gifts.
  • He is also happy to be someone who goes to church.
  • He’s also happy to go where he won’t see any Springers for a few minutes. (We wonder why he assumes Mr. and Mrs. Springer won’t be at their own church.)
  • He thinks his car salesman job is OK, though he worries about the lies he tells to sell the used cars, and plans to “ask forgiveness.”
  • He “hates” the people he sees not dressed for church, sees them as signs that say the earth is right on top of hell.
  • He “loves” the ones that are in church clothes – they match up with “the beauty of belief” that he is full of now.
  • Rabbit is full of gratitude that things turned out like they have.
  • When he gets to church he kneels and thanks both God and his daughter.
  • Then he sees an attractive woman from the back.
  • The peach fuzz on her neck makes him think of Tothero telling him women are hairy, and he “says a quick prayer” that Tothero is still alive.
  • He keeps admiring the woman and wants to see her face.
  • When she turns around, it’s (surprise!) Joyce Eccles, so close he could touch her.
  • Rabbit doesn’t really like “the Episcopal service.” The church itself is uncomfortable.
  • He remembers the comfort of his own Lutheran church.
  • He is not held rapt by Eccles’s sermon, which is about when Jesus and the Devil talked for forty days “in the Wilderness.” Eccles argues that this “story” is still applicable today, that we too need to keep the Devil talking, so we know what he’s up to.
  • Eccles also stresses that difficulties of all kind are necessary for learning and going through life.
  • Rabbit thinks Eccles is no good up there, that “In his robes he seems a sinister man-woman.”
  • Rabbit turns his attention to the lovely Lucy Eccles, who won’t turn around to look at him, but who he thinks is sending back some lust vibes. He says hello to her after the sermon.
  • She expresses surprise at his presence. He ends up walking Lucy and Joyce home.
  • They talk about how Eccles and Rabbit are similar.
  • He holds back from telling her how he feels about her, because something stops him from acting on his feelings.
  • Lucy says she notices the ways they are not similar, like that Eccles is uncomfortable with women and Rabbit is not.
  • She blames Eccles’ discomfort on Christian neurosis.
  • When they get to her place, Rabbit declines her offer to come in.
  • Actually, he says, “You’re a doll, but I got this wife now.”
  • She isn’t pleased and walks up to the front door.
  • He feels bad that she doesn’t like him anymore, so he calls after her, “But thanks, anyway.” She bangs the door shut with the force of anger.
  • He ponders her anger as he walks home, but he feels good about himself.
  • The encounter stimulated him though, and he’s sexually excited when he gets home.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Noodle's College Search