by John Updike
Rabbit, Run Theme of Guilt and Blame
Rabbit, Run is a guilt and blame-fest. This starts at the beginning of the novel when the main character, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, runs away from his pregnant wife and his son. But when newborn Rebecca June Angstrom drowns in a bathtub, things get messy. Rabbit’s wife Janice admits she drowned the baby while drunk. Yet Rabbit is a prime suspect, especially to himself. He is a suspect precisely because he was not there when the baby died. All of the other characters in the novel are suspects too – everybody simultaneously feels guilty and wants to blame others. Even the novel’s setting, America of 1959, is a suspect.
Questions About Guilt and Blame
- Who is to blame for Rebecca June’s death? If Janice’s mother hadn’t called her, would Rebecca June still be alive?
- How might this novel have been different if Rabbit had been present in the apartment when Rebecca June dies?
- If everybody but Janice was on trial for killing the baby, what kind of charges would be brought? What would the jury's verdict be? Is there any real legal precedent by which someone other than Janice could be indicted?
Chew on This
Rebecca June’s death is Updike’s indictment of America in the 1950s – in the end everyone is guilty and everyone is to blame.