by John Updike
Rabbit, Run Theme of Visions of America
Rabbit, Run’s author, John Updike says that looking at 1950s America through the eyes of his main character, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom opened his eyes to the decade. The novel mostly focuses on February, March, and June of 1959 (though the rest of the decade is seen through memory), and on Brewer, Pennsylvania and its suburb, Mt. Judge. The view can be breathtaking in terms of natural beauty. The novel’s landscape is rich in mountains and virgin forests and lush gardens. It can also be cramped and suffocating when we find the characters where they live, and where TV characters show them what the American Dream is supposed to look like. Rabbit, Run’s vision of America asks us to interrogate our own visions of America by exploring America in 1959.
Questions About Visions of America
- In what ways, if any, are Rabbit, Run’s vision of America beautiful or ugly? Does he like anything he sees? If so, what? What doesn’t he like, and why?
- What, if anything, does the long list of every song, commercial, and news brief we get during Rabbit’s road trip tell us about America, 1959?
- Rabbit suggests that, to be successful in America, one must become a fraud. Does this hold water? Why or why not? He thinks this after watching the Mickey Mouse Club, which he thinks is a larger Disney fraud. Is there something about that specific episode that might have triggered his thought? What might that be?
Chew on This
By fictionalizing his vision of America in 1959 through the eyes of Rabbit, Updike demonstrates that insight is only gained with the ability to see through the eyes of others.
A close look at Updike’s 1959 shows us not only how much America has changed, but also how much it has remained the same.