Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By John Updike

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Anticipation Stage and ‘fall’ into the other world

Out of the suburbs and into the big city.

At the start of the novel our hero is a total mess. His life in the suburbs is driving him crazy – you know, the drunk, pregnant, always leaving the kid at your mother’s, wife, and the job hawking degrading kitchen devices at the five and dime kind of crazy. To make matters worse, it’s the start of the weekend and nothing but chores, no fun in sight – it’s all a big fat trap. Booker calls Rabbit’s mindset a "restricted consciousness," and having one will get you plunged "into a strange world," or, in this case, the nearest city. Rabbit gets plunged by taking what was meant to be a permanent road trip. But, because of his limited consciousness perhaps, he thinks every road he turns down is part of the same trap he left. So he comes back. And meets Ruth, an ex-"hooer," who shares her love nest, er, strange world, with him.

Initial Fascination or Dream Stage

Sex and gardening.

Life is sweet and easy with Ruth, and the sex is really good. And Rabbit has the perfect job, tending the flowers in Mrs. Smith’s garden. Booker would say he’s totally exhilarated, but that he doesn’t "really feel at home." We don’t know about that. Did we say the sex was good? And Rabbit is so in his element playing in the dirt and planting stuff and burning dead leaves from last fall, and all that other gardening jive.

Frustration Stage

What, you want me to go to the store for pickles and ice cream?

Did we speak to soon? Maybe so. Rabbit’s starting to get a little uncomfortable. Booker would say that a creepy "shadow" is dogging him, and freaking him out. Rabbit actually has a bunch of shadows now, and two of them look an awful lot like fetuses. Ruth is pregnant, but instead of telling him, she gives him a hard time about leaving Janice. So when Eccles calls and says Janice is about to hatch, Rabbit runs all the way to St. Joseph’s Hospital, the shadow at his heels. And then yay!, the delivery is a success! Rebecca June is born, and Janice is fine. So why don’t those pesky shadows just get off his back?

Nightmare Stage

Sex, booze, and death.

The horniness shadow is what’s in hot pursuit of Rabbit now. If he doesn’t sleep with Janice pronto, he might go blind, or even insane. But Janice is in no mood for nookie. These factors converge to create a double nightmare. Baby Becky cries for hours and Rabbit tries to keep his "shadow" under control by sucking on cigarettes, and staying really close to Janice. Finally the kid sleeps and Rabbit just can’t believe it when Janice is like: satisfaction denied! So he splits. Upset, Janice gets drunk and accidentally drowns the baby.

Thrilling escape and return

Rabbit runs.

To make Rabbit a classic Bookerian hero for this last part, we have to see his life in the novel as set in two worlds: the world of running, and the world of sticking around. The world he really falls out of, at first, is the running one (the book starts with him running). He falls into the sticking around world of life with Janice and then life with Ruth and then back to Janice. Then he falls out of the sticking around one and back into the running one at the end of the book. Booker asks if Rabbit "learned or gained anything from his experience." We say yes, though just how deep his connection is with his son Nelson is the only thing we know for sure he’s learned.