by John Updike
Analysis: What’s Up With the Ending?
Well, folks, no surprise – in the end Rabbit runs. As usual, he’s not sure where he’s headed. Will he keep on running, or will he return to marry pregnant Ruth, like he promised? Will he move back in with Janice and Nelson, and the ghost of Rebecca June, or will he steal Lucy Eccles away from the Reverend Eccles? Will he start that new religion, like he dreamed he was supposed to? One thing the ending does make clear: Rabbit wants both what’s best for Nelson, and to stay out of traps. Whatever he does in the future will be an attempt to balance those two desires.
This is perhaps where Rabbit has changed the most. In his struggle to become and adult without sacrificing the fun of childhood, Rabbit looks to many figures of authority to guide him. But in the end, Nelson becomes the ultimate authority to Rabbit, and everything Rabbit chooses in the future will be first weighed against its potential impact on Nelson. The ending also reads, quite literally, like a sigh of relief. During the course of the novel, we begin to feel as trapped and claustrophobic as Rabbit is. In the end, at least for a moment, we can breathe the fresh air and feel the wind in our tails while we think about whether we too could be settling for mediocrity by sitting still, or risking everything when we make a move. Or whether we like our lives just fine and want to leave all that running around and searching for Rabbit.