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Themes

John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, published in 1960, is obsessed with alcohol and cigarettes. But unless you count delivery room anesthetics, drugs are only mentioned on the first page – some basketball playing kids are smoking weed – almost like Updike, writing about 1959, is predicting the ’60s and ’70s to come. Alcohol is mostly presented as a destructive force; whenever the characters get near it, disaster on small or large-scale results. Cigarettes too are presented as mostly destructive, contributing subtly and not so subtly to the smokers’ problems. Though at one moment a cigarette is seen as "a wafer of repentance." So go steal the keys to the liquor cabinet and – oh, you know Shmoop’s just kidding!

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. If Rabbit hadn’t tried to get Janice to drink that Sunday, would she still have started drinking after he left? Does the text give us any information that allows us to make an educated guess?
  2. What are we to think of Rabbit’s asking her repeatedly to take a drink that Sunday?
  3. Why does Janice drink?
  4. Had Rebecca June lived, what is the likelihood that she would have been neurologically or physically damaged by Janice’s drinking while pregnant? (This one will require a little research.)

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Tothero is right. If Rabbit had been able to enjoy an occasional drink with Janice, their marriage would not be falling apart, and their child would not be dead.

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