by John Updike
Rabbit, Run Theme of Identity
Rabbit, Run explores the ways in which individual needs and desires, responsibility, family, religion, pop culture, and The American Dream circa 1959 impact the identities of its characters. The tension between American pioneerism and American conformity results in an identity crisis for the novel’s main character, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom as he runs back and forth between them trying to escape an all pervasive "trap." The results can be both stunningly beautiful and utterly shattering. The open ending leaves it to our imagination (unless we read the sequel, Rabbit, Redux) as to what extent the characters’ identities are, or aren’t, changed by the drowning death of Rabbit’s newborn daughter.
Questions About Identity
- Does Rabbit really think he’s the next Jesus, or is he just playing around?
- Does Ruth’s sexual experience factor in to her identity? If so, how?
- How might Nelson’s presence in the apartment at the time of Rebecca June’s death, and his knowledge of the circumstances of her death, impact his identity in the future? How do you feel about Rabbit and Nelson’s discussion of the tragedy?
Chew on This
Harry uses his strong identification with the animal the rabbit to justify sex with multiple partners and his need to run away from difficult situations.
Until Rabbit stops needing a "coach" figure in his life, he will continue to remain trapped in his identity as a high school basketball player.