by John Updike
Character Role Analysis
Rabbit’s old basketball coach has almost as much influence over him as his mother, by his own admission. But after getting fired over an unspecified scandal, Tothero is deteriorating fast. Add a little whisky and then things get pretty bad. After Rabbit leaves Janice the first time, he goes to Tothero for advice. Tothero gives him helpful hints for being married to Janice, like – the couple who drinks together, stays together. Unlike Eccles, he’s at least willing to explore options with Rabbit. But after Rabbit wakes up and is ready to talk, Tothero has started drinking, and tells Rabbit to forget Janice. What he needs is something in between "stay with Janice" and "leave Janice." Neither Eccles nor Tothero are able to provide this. After being hospitalized for multiple strokes, Tothero gets out of the hospital and visits Rabbit at the Springer home after Becky's death. In this darkly comic scene, he begs Rabbit to admit that Tothero told him to go back to Janice, mistakenly thinking that he never went back, and that that’s why the baby died.
In Eccles, Rabbit finds a new coach. Eccles and Rabbit communicate best on the golf course, with Eccles acting as both cheerleader and coach to Rabbit, and unrelentingly attempting to convince Rabbit to go back to his wife, and preserve the sacrament of marriage. Rabbit still wants what he thinks he had with Tothero, and he thinks that in some ways he and Jack have a lot in common. At the same time, he wants out from under Eccles, and, ahem, under Eccles’ wife, Lucy.