Rabbit, Run
Rabbit, Run
by John Updike
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Rabbit, Run Chapter 18 Summary

  • Finally we get Janice’s perspective.
  • She’s used to being in bed alone, and is able to sleep without his hot body in bed with her. But she’s in pain because Rabbit irritated the stitches from her episiotomy.
  • About 4 a.m. she’s woken by the baby crying.
  • The baby isn’t nursing well, and Janice is hoping Rabbit will show up.
  • She worries about her mother’s neighbors laughing at her – her mother was constantly talking about that when Janice was there. She thought marriage would give her power over her own life. She thought that when she named the baby after her mother it would stop her from feeling like a failure in her mother’s eyes. Instead it made her feel like she was nursing her mother. She paces, rocking the baby, one breast empty, the other full.
  • She thinks of Rabbit trying to have sex with her.
  • She thinks she would let him if he came home now, but when he tried earlier it was too humiliating, that it was an insult, his thinking that it didn’t matter that he’d been having sex with “that prostitute.”
  • Her thoughts are becoming muddled, but it sounds like she had sex with someone else when Rabbit was away, mostly because he would not have imagined her capable.
  • His movements on “her backside” made her think of him with the other woman, and how helpless his doing that had left her feeling, how the town was either pitying her or mocking her.
  • She thinks of how he was so excited coming back from church, and wonders if he was thinking about something that had happened there when he was touching her.
  • That’s what made her stop him. She could feel him stop thinking about her; he stopped touching her delicately and with sensitivity.
  • She thinks he is the one who is “dumb,” because he can’t fathom what his leaving did to her, nor that she was in pain and exhausted.
  • She remembers that she was afraid to tell Rabbit she might be pregnant, before they were married.
  • She remembers how wonderful she felt when he was actually excited about it, and wanted to get married. She thinks about how wonderful he can sometimes be.
  • But it didn’t really change her low self-esteem, which clashed terribly with his high self-esteem. Drinking muted her loneliness and gave color to the edges of her life.
  • The baby has fallen asleep and she considers giving her the full breast, but doesn’t want to wake her. She puts Rebecca in her crib, and then tries to sleep as the sky lightens.
  • At first being awake is nice, like being awake early in the morning at her mother’s when she’d decided she could be happy without or with Rabbit.
  • If he didn’t return she would raise her child and be celibate.
  • If he did she wouldn’t be mad about his leaving, would quit the booze for him, and he’d be happy having sown his wild oats.
  • She’d learned from Eccles and her friend Peggy that being married was about mutual connection and since he’d come back, until yesterday, she’d felt like it was working.
  • But Rabbit spoiled it by treating her like his prostitute.
  • Thinking of the injustice of the turn of events makes the tears start – she can’t get over him saying: Roll over. She thinks a drink might help her sleep. She prays to Rabbit to come back. The shot makes her feel better, and the town looks pretty from her window.
  • She gets mad thinking about Rabbit and has another drink, thinking it will be fun.
  • She is physically uncomfortable and disgusted by her apartment.
  • Her milk has leaked onto her nightgown and dried, and she remembers being taught to keep her breast clean while breastfeeding, so she takes off her nightgown, and admires her legs.
  • She accidentally spills what’s left in her glass, and decides to try walking around naked, “like a whore,” but gets shy and puts on a robe.
  • She has another drink and is tired but doesn’t want to sleep in the bed that Rabbit is missing from.
  • She feels like someone else is in the house with her and she tries to hide from the feeling by turning on the TV.
  • No shows are on yet and, when she turns it off, the tears come again, and she wishes someone would hear her and be with her.
  • She picks up Rebecca to nurse her, and thinks Rabbit has come home when a neighbor’s door slams.
  • The door wakes Nelson and she gives him cereal and he asks if Rabbit left.
  • She thinks he’s sweet for asking, but can’t admit it to him, and not telling her son the truth makes her want to drink more.
  • She’s scared and drunk and confused, and she thinks that somehow the lie let in a “ghost.”
  • She doesn’t change the baby’s diaper because she’s afraid she’s too drunk to handle the diaper pins and might hurt the baby.
  • She watches TV with Nelson while the baby sleeps, has another drink, and believes Rabbit will come back soon.
  • She and Nelson have fun coloring, until she sees she’s gone outside the lines and, to Nelson’s dismay, can’t stop the tears.
  • Instead of hugging her, Nelson runs to his room.
  • She thinks Rabbit will surely be back at the end of the day, and that drinking will help her keep anyone from finding out he left.
  • Then her dad calls asking why Rabbit isn’t at work.
  • She makes up a story about Rabbit going somewhere to sell a car to someone, which her father doesn’t really believe.
  • She has another drink and starts cooking lunch, still feeling like someone else is there with them.
  • Nelson complains about the food, and is asking about Rabbit. He won’t eat properly and she ends up slapping him.
  • She feels he’s bullying her and sends him to bed, proud of her control.
  • Then her mother calls and accuses Janice of making Rabbit leave again, and being really mean. She says she’s coming over even though Janice begs her not to.
  • When Janice realizes how messed up the place is she tries to clean but is in too much physical pain.
  • Becky starts up again and, when Janice goes to the crib, she finds baby poop all over it, which makes her furious at the baby, who she puts on a big chair.
  • Still drinking, confused, and in pain, she runs a bath for the baby, and tries to clean up the mess, and hide the booze.
  • The tub is almost full and she wishes she could get in it but instead brings Rebecca to the tub. She’s very confused and the baby sinks and is slippery to grasp, but Janice eventually gets her out of the tub, and is relieved.
  • Janice feels even more strongly that someone she can’t see is in the apartment, and as she hears banging on her door, she knows that Rebecca is dead.
Next Page: Chapter 19
Previous Page: Chapter 17

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