by John Updike
Analysis: Three Act Plot Analysis
For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.
Rabbit Angstrom runs off, leaving behind his pregnant, alcoholic wife Janice, and his son Nelson. After driving all night, something makes him turn the car around. But, he doesn’t go back to his family. Instead he shacks up with Ruth, an ex-prostitute, for two months – just until Janice goes into labor. Problem is, though he doesn’t know it, Ruth is pregnant, too.
Rebecca June is born and they all move back into the apartment. Everything is basically okay, until…Rabbit goes to church one Sunday and gets all horny from flirting with Lucy Eccles, wife of Jack Eccles, Rabbit’s friend and the church pastor. Rabbit comes home from church wanting to get cozy with Janice, even though she’s not supposed to have sex for six weeks. He pesters her all day, trying to get her to have a drink. The baby finally stops crying and Rabbit finally gets Janice to have a drink. They go to bed and he makes his move, which she rejects. So he gets mad and takes off. Meanwhile, Janice gets very drunk and, while trying to give the baby a bath, accidentally drowns her.
Rabbit spends the night in a motel and tries to see Ruth but doesn’t. He calls Eccles and finds out the baby is dead. He comes back, full off guilt and hoping to make things right, trying not to blame Janice. Unfortunately, at the end of the funeral service, he loudly accuses Janice of killing the baby and proclaims his innocence. Then he runs off and gets lost in the woods. After he finds his way out of the woods, he visits Ruth, learns she is pregnant, and agrees to divorce Janice and marry Ruth. But when he goes out for snacks, yep, he runs…