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Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run


by John Updike

Rabbit, Run Chapter 17 Summary

  • The first line here is too beautiful and sad not to quote: “His wish to make love to Janice is like a small angel to which all afternoon tiny lead weights are attached.”
  • Whew. In any case, the baby has been upset and crying since he got home.
  • No one understands what little Rebecca wants or knows how to comfort her.
  • Rabbit really wants to make love to Janice, specifically to Janice, because he wants to share with her the extreme happiness inside himself.
  • The baby’s constant crying won’t let that happen. Everyone is terrified.
  • Nelson is agitated too, of course. Becky can only be quiet for moments.
  • Rabbit is freaking out, saying, “Oh my God” and “Son of a bitch.”
  • Around five, Janice is in tears. The baby has been constantly nursing, drank all of Janice’s milk, and is still not satisfied. Rabbit asks her if she wants a drink.
  • Apparently he’s been asking her all afternoon, and chain smoking.
  • He tells her he thought it might loosen her up. She says it’s him and asks what’s up.
  • He doesn’t understand why the well has run dry (in contrast to her abundant flow when she came home that Friday, nine days ago.)
  • Janice explains that the child simply drank it all. Rabbit asks her again if she wants a drink. She suggests he have one, that Rebecca only became irritated when Rabbit got home. Nelson wants to know why Becky is crying.
  • Janice says it’s the heat. The baby’s ceaseless crying feels like a warning.
  • It’s a beautiful afternoon and Rabbit has an attack of fear; he’s afraid they are not living properly when he remembers childhood walks with his family.
  • A walk seems like a good idea to us too, but it’s too chaotic and they are too confused. They can’t coordinate it, and furthermore, neither Nelson nor Rabbit want to be away from Janice and so they all cling to her. She is squeezed in and needs some space.
  • She urges Rabbit to go do something, saying he’s aggravating the baby with his behavior.
  • He suggests she have a drink.
  • She doesn’t want one – just wants him to stop with the chain smoking, and the clinging.
  • She says, “I think I need to be back at the hospital.”
  • Rabbit asks if she is in pain “down there.”
  • She says the crying is making it hurt.
  • She’s explaining that, on top of all this, she has to make dinner.
  • She wants to know what got into him at church.
  • He keeps trying to be love-y, and she wants him to stop.
  • She says: “I’m not loveable right now.” It’s late when they eat; Becky is still crying.
  • Finally she stops, leaving a feeling of guilt and failure in the apartment.
  • Janice wonders if her milk has stopped. Rabbit doubts it, as she has “been like footballs.”
  • She tells him he can’t “play,” but is smiling somewhere in there.
  • Nelson goes to bed discontented, sucking his bottle.
  • Rabbit feels deeply for his son, and puts his hand warmly on his forehead.
  • It’s too late for that though, and Nelson is irritated by the gesture.
  • Janice agrees to a drink.
  • He gives her “half whiskey and half water” which she says isn’t yummy, but drinks anyway.
  • When they are in bed he imagines the drink will make her more responsive.
  • They are face to face on their sides.
  • Rabbit is making his moves, and Janice is not resisting but not demonstrative either.
  • He’s tries to cool his impatience, to remember how to take it slow.
  • “He dares undo the two buttons of her nightie front,” and he admires her breasts.
  • She seems to be letting him, and he’s getting comfortable and feeling good about himself.
  • When he sees her shaved pubis, and thinks of her just having had a baby, “it makes his confidence delicate.”
  • It wipes him out when says: “Harry. Don’t you know I want to go to sleep?”
  • He asks why she didn’t stop him sooner.
  • She says she thought he was just trying to make her feel good, and that she thought he understood she couldn’t have sex. He says she can.
  • She explains that not only doesn’t she feel well, but that the doctor ordered six weeks of abstinence. He’s mortified.
  • He explains, “I thought you might love me anyway.”
  • She says she does “love” him. He asks to keep touching her.
  • She says he should try to sleep. He wants her to just let him finish, he can’t contain what he feels, though he’s feeling less excited by the minute.
  • She says she feels taken advantage of and rotten. He begs. She says, “I feel so cheap.”
  • This makes him angry. He thinks that her three-month abstinence has made her think of sex as larger than it is. At this point he just wants relief so he can sleep and leave her alone. He tells her to “roll over.”
  • She does, thinking he’s letting her go, telling him she loves him.
  • He tries to come by rubbing his penis between her buttocks.
  • She gets mad and asks: “Is this a trick your whore taught you?” He hits her shoulder with his closed hand and gets up. They argue about it. He says he’s leaving. She protests.
  • She asks him to try to put himself in her shoes.
  • He says he is capable of it, but right now is only interested in his own feelings and he wants to leave. Upset, she gets back in bed, face down in the pillow.
  • He thinks this act means she has “accepted defeat,” and that he would still have stayed if she hadn’t done that. He doesn’t want sex any more, so he wouldn’t have minded staying and sleeping with her, but she makes him mad crying in bed.

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