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by John Updike
Rabbit, Run Chapter 7 Summary
Ruth says to Rabbit: “You have it pretty good, don’t you?” It’s now Memorial Day, Sunday afternoon, and they are sitting in the grass by a public pool in Brewer. Ruth had balked at displaying her body in a suit. Yet, she was lovely, all fresh in her bathing cap. She was a good swimmer and Rabbit wholly admired her. When she floated on her stomach her “bottom” in the air looked like an island on TV to Rabbit. A feeling of ownership had come over him, knowing her and her body like he does. Watching her, he thinks he understands clean. Clean is being in harmony with your surroundings – nothing missing, nothing that doesn’t belong. She belongs in the water. He belongs in the grass (he only got wet, and then watched Ruth swim) and associates being wet with being cold. He prefers to let the “teenage girls” admire his fabulous back. Ruth moves to get out of the pool (and the narrative switches back to the present tense – see the first lines of this chapter). She climbs out and joins Rabbit on the grass. He admires her pubes. “You have it pretty good,” she tells him. He wants to know how. She ticks off the reasons: Eccles and golf. Flowers and Mrs. Smith “in love” with him, and he has her. Rabbit wants to know if it’s true about Mrs. Smith. She says it is, according to him. He denies it and wants her to retract. When she doesn’t respond he asks her again and pinches her. Though he didn’t set out to pinch her so hard, that first touch of her flesh made him angry. She does not like this, and zones out on the sun. He does not like her not paying attention to the sun instead of him and he thinks of her body as “dead.” He creepily eyes fourteen-year-old girls in bathing suits. Now Ruth wants to know why he is so loved by the world. He says he’s “lovable.” She wants to know what’s so special about him. Quoting Eccles, though out of context, and without citation, he says, “I’m a saint. I give people faith.” Ruth says he gives her pain. He’s mad that she’s being like this after he admired her so lovingly in the pool. She thinks he isn’t doing his part. He says he “supports” her. She reminds him she has a job as an insurance company stenographer. He would prefer she quit it, jealous of what she might do. He thinks she might have enjoyed her days as a prostitute. He tells her he will support her. She wants to know why he can’t support Janice. He says Janice’s father has plenty of lettuce. She thinks he’s too “smug.” That he should be more worried about “the price” of leaving his family, and living well. He is disturbed by her eyes, which are blue and rich and irritated from the swimming. Her eyes sting also with tears and the narrative has switched over to Ruth’s perspective. She thinks these too easy tears are signs. She ticks off the other signs: Crying at work. Too tired. Much hungrier than usual. Hmmm… She doesn’t want to put on the weight she lost for Rabbit. She thinks that he thinks he’s changing her in a very different way than he intends. She is pulled by his “mildness” and pushed by his threat. On the other hand, she likes that she is part of his life, not just mind candy. Being with Rabbit, she “kind of forgave” the men she’d slept with for money, thinking it was “only half their fault.” Before Rabbit she was reaching for something. With Rabbit she found it. She was never really hurt or scarred and so the men before Rabbit were like blurry old secrets. She has a generous attitude about sex. The first time she gave a blowjob and/or had intercourse was with Ronnie Harrison, the guy Rabbit was afraid had sex with her, back when they first met at the Chinese joint. She did then but doesn’t think the blowjob itself is a big deal, and that sperm tastes something like seawater. Just that it is “harder work” than men “probably think it is.” She feels that men don’t understand how hard women work. She thinks of high school and high school boys: they were full of sexual shame. They were grateful for sexual congress of any sort. They liked to share their knowledge of where sexual congress might be procured. “What did they think they were, monsters?” She can’t believe they thought it impossible that any girl could feel just like they did. She thinks that men and women are pretty much the same stuff. Except that guys have “a stuck on looking bit that made them king.” Relationships with men could be either nice or not. She relishes a memory of choosing “the demerits” over having to wear the standard gym clothes, of standing outside the other high school girls. She remembers “hating” some of those girls, ones with rich daddies. She gloats a bit about having sex instead of money. She reminisces about when sex was simple, when she they were learning. She doesn’t like French kissing, but that’s not the point. But sometimes it was enough to satisfy a guy and “keep your dress dry.” She was notorious in school, in “a song.” She learned this from Allie, an understanding young lover. He broke it to her gently. Yet he too told of their escapades. She didn’t hold a grudge, but learned something. Then she moved on to older men. Ruth gets tired when she wonders if she’d screwed up somewhere in her life. She thinks how it was easy with older men – nothing intense because it was so easy. She didn’t normally consider them for long term partners. Rabbit was the first of these. Rabbit’s penis is uncircumcised. His pubic hair is “fleece.” His penis is an “angel horn.” She likes the sex, but it’s more than that. He’s sweet. He brought her bongo drums. When things are right, “She feels like next to nothing next to him.” She thinks that’s what she was reaching for: “To feel like nothing with a man.” She thinks of forgiving her customers again. And about how she thought she was going in deep “to something better than she was.” On the other hand, Rabbit is moody. He doesn’t “live by” sex like she thinks women do. The sex isn’t as good now. She can’t sleep because she doesn’t come. Sometimes she freaks out inside when they are having sex and want to tell him she is pregnant, angry that he doesn’t suspect. She wants to be sure before she tells him. She’s only missed one period and is due for one anytime. She kind of likes the idea of having a baby, a purpose. She wonders if she wants the baby because Rabbit acts like he would. She wonders if she did it to make him act, to show him that there are “consequences.” She’s afraid he will leave her for Eccles when she tells him. She’s angry that Eccles encourages Rabbit to believe he’s a Christ figure – that anything he does must be good for the world. She thinks this is bad for Rabbit. Now Rabbit answers her question about paying for what you do: “If you have the guts to be yourself, other people’ll pay your price.”
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