Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Quotes

By John Updike

  • Sex

    Cotton and gulls in the half-light and the way she’d [Janice would] come on the other girl’s bed, never as good as their own. (1.134)

    It would be interesting to know if Janice feels this way, too.

    So that when it was over he was hurt to learn, from the creases of completion at the sides of her and the hard way she wouldn’t keep lying beside him but got up and sat on the edge of the metal-frame bed looking out the dark window at the green night sky of Texas, that she faked her half. (1.167)

    Does it make Rabbit more sympathetic that he cares about the prostitute’s orgasm? Or is this just more of his competitive spirit?

    "I had forgotten," she says.
    "Forgotten what?"
    "That I could have it too."
    "What’s it like?"
    "Oh. It’s like falling through."
    "Where do you fall to?"
    "Nowhere. I can’t talk about it." (3.120-126)

    This passage suggests that men and women experience orgasm very differently. It’s possible that if Ruth had been able to go on, they would have found their experience similar, or not. It would have been an interesting conversation anyway. Too bad Ruth was embarrassed.

    "It starts earlier than two, believe me. Sexual antagonism begins practically at birth." (5.28)

    This is Lucy and Rabbit. Lucy appears to also belief that men and women are eternally divided, and that all children want to sleep with their parent of the opposite sex and do away with the other. See the chapter for fun and games with Freud.

    "Right," he replies smartly and, in a mindless follow-through, an overflow of coordination, she having on the drop of his answer turned with prim dismissal away from him again, slaps! her sassy ass. Not hard: a cupping hit, rebuke and fond pat both, well placed on the pocket. (5.46)

    Did this surprise you? Did you know Rabbit was such an animal? Does Lucy have a duty to tell Eccles about it?

    "Stripper, hell. I’ve been in here three whole weeks looking for my motorcycle." (9.73)

    This is the punch line to Ronnie Harrison’s joke about a prostitute with a large vagina (whatever that means). Nobody at the table finds it funny, which Rabbit blames on Ronnie’s poor delivery. What, if anything, does it tell us about Ronnie’s way of looking at sex?

    "Don’t be smart. Listen. Tonight you turned against me. I need to see you on your knees. I need you to" – he till can’t say it – "do it." (9.178)

    Rabbit uses sex to punish Ruth, and also to gain mastery over her when he feels he might have lost her.

    He [Rabbit] has come home from church carrying something precious for Janice and keeps being screened from giving it to her. (16.1)

    We find this both touching and sad. Rabbit seems so sincere here. Janice was actually somewhat receptive to his advances (even though he was a royal pest one day) until she "felt" him thinking about what a great lover he was. Were they stopped from making a meaningful connection by both of them thinking, "It’s all about me," or is there something else going on here?

    That was just why she had to have some because he didn’t think she dared have any after she let him run off that was the funny thing it was his bad deed yet she was supposed not to have any pride afterwards to be just a pot for his dirt. (17.5)

    This is the only hint we get that Janice might have had an extramarital affair. This quote is also a good example of how the characters' sentences run on when they are upset. Janet refuses Rabbit because a) she’s in pain – she just had a baby, and b) out of personal pride. Even if she wanted to have sex, his lack of regard for her, now and in the recent past, makes her feel anything but sexy.

  • Fear

    He feels frightened. When confused, Janice is a frightening person. (1.38)

    Funny how Rabbit’s fear of Janice leads him to make her even more confused by pressuring her to explain herself. He tries to be nice, but it just doesn’t work.

    Your fear trills like an alarm bell you cannot shut off, the louder the faster you run, hunchbacked, until distinctly, with a gasp of the clutch, a near car shifts gears, and the stumpy white posts of the guard fence dawns behind the pine trunks. (1.67)

    Hmm…this memory he has (of willingly losing himself to nature for the relief of escaping back to civilization) while running to pick up Nelson at the beginning of the novel sounds an awful lot like what he actually does at the end of the novel, after he tells off Janice and runs away from Rebecca June’s funeral.

    Laws aren’t ghosts in this country, they walk around with the smell of earth on them. Senseless fear cakes over Rabbit’s body. (1.92)

    One question to ask here is whether the adjective "senseless" which is used to describe Rabbit’s fear is the narrator’s judgment or Rabbit’s. That could lead to either an interesting discussion on narrative voice, and/or a discussion about how knowing a fear isn’t justified doesn’t always help us stop being afraid.

    So this road of dread is a lover’s lane. (1.121)

    Rabbit’s fear is intense as he drives down this road on his supposed journey down south, the first time he leaves Janice. It’s ironic that the road that scares him is a road is a "lover’s lane" when he’s fleeing love gone bad. The road also leads to a crossroads. At the end of the lover’s lane Rabbit comes to a highway, and can choose to continue his journey south, or head north, back to his home. He sees no signs to guide him, and head back home.

    "I think you would like it if she [Janice] was there."
    "No, I wouldn’t," he tells Ruth. "I’m scared of her."
    "Obviously," Ruth says.
    "There’s something about her," he insists. "She’s a menace."
    "This poor wife you left. You’re the menace, I’d say." (4.84-4.88)

    As free and easy as Ruth tries to be, she considers his leaving Janice a criminal act.

    Yet, there’s a tremor; and in seeing that Harrison is afraid of him, Rabbit loses interest. (9.5)

    Is this another reason Rabbit and Janice don’t get along, because she’s afraid of him (remember the locked door)? Do we see signs of fear in Ruth when she interacts with Rabbit?

    He is certain that as a consequence of his sin Janice or the baby will die. (12.20)

    Here we get at perhaps the extremes of Rabbit’s fear. If this held true for every man that leaves his wife, we’d be living in a far less populated world. How does this fear comment on the society in which Rabbit was raised?

    The noise [of Rebecca June crying] spreads fear through the apartment. (16.1)

    Well, that hasn’t changed since 1959, but hopefully we are more equipped to deal with it now. Though one point of the section is that, even when we know what we could do to make things better (like take a walk), we let something stand in the way (like sex).

    Again and again she comes up to the sound of him saying Roll over and can’t squeeze through it, can’t not feel panicked and choked. (17.10)

    A nice example of how the mind won’t let us let go of the things that bother us until they are resolved. In this case, a discussion with Rabbit about Janice’s, dare I say it, feelings was in order. Part of the problem is that they could not talk about the things that bothered them in a productive way.

    Of the things he [Rabbit] dreads, seeing his parents is foremost.

    This is just before the funeral. Perhaps the fact that his parents do not turn against him when they see him leads him to question the extent of his guilt.

  • Religion

    Janice and Rabbit become unnaturally still; both are Christians. God’s name makes them feel guilty. (1.29)

    Pondering these sentences leaves us confused. Is guilt a positive and necessary human emotion? Whether it is or isn’t, what happens when you connect it to God?

    Amish overwork their animal, he knew. Fanatics. Hump their women standing up, out in the fields, wearing clothes, just hoist black skirts and there it was, nothing underneath. No underpants. Manure worshipers. (1.103)

    Rather than make us despise the Amish, does this paragraph provide a key to Rabbit’s later feeling of alienation at the diner in West Virginia?

    "Hey, why don’t you get some clothes on instead of just lying there giving me [Ruth] the word."
    This, and her turning, hair swirling, to say it, stir him. "Come here," he asks. The idea of making it while the churches are full excites him.
    "No," Ruth says. She is really a little sore. His believing in God grates against her. (4.28-30)

    Ruth just chose Rabbit over God. And he finds that hot. And this makes her spurn the pleasure of this world.

    Eccles’ handshake, eager and practiced and hard, seems to symbolize for him an embrace. For an instant Rabbit fears he will never let go. He feels caught, foresees explanations, embarrassments, prayers, reconciliation’s rising up in dank walls; his skin prickles in desperation. He senses tenacity in his captor. (4.118)

    It’s interesting to think about what would have happened if Rabbit had run here, away from Eccles. It probably wouldn’t have made a good book though. We put this under religion because it has both Eccles on Sunday, and the word "prayer."

    "I [Eccles] don’t think even the blackest atheist has any idea of what real separation will be. Outer darkness. We live in what you might call" – he looks at Harry and laughs – " inner darkness." (5.36)

    Well, aren’t we all existential and sophisticated? But it’s sure an interesting perspective on hell. Ideas like hell on earth and the hell of the mind don’t apply to the hell that comes when we die if we aren’t careful. Or rather, just how much hell you are in depends on how far away you are from God. Very Gothic.

    "Do you think," Kruppenbach at last interrupts, "do you think this your job, to meddle in these people’s lives?" (9.6)

    This takes on deeper significance for Eccles after Rebecca June dies.

    "You [Eccles] have no seriousness. Don’t you believe in damnation? Don’t you know, when you put that collar on, what you risked?" [said Kruppenbach] (8.144)

    Ol’ Kruppenbach knows how to find a sore spot. Eccles already feels like a criminal and fraud in his collar.

    She [Lucy Eccles] hates them, all those clinging quaint quavering widows and Young People for Christ – the one good thing if the Russians take over is they’ll make religion go extinct. It should have gone extinct a hundred years ago. Maybe it shouldn’t have. Maybe our weakness needs it […] (10.2)

    An atheist and a communist. What an odd combination.

    He feels them all, the heads are still around him as tombstones, he feels them all one, all one with the grass, with the hothouse flowers, all, the undertaker’s men, the unseen caretaker who has halted his mower, all gathered into one here to give his unbaptized baby force to leap to heaven. (20.17)

    Even the Mystery Science Theater guys would tear up at this one. The beauty of Updike’s image is breathtaking. This is a moment that makes us love Rabbit and see the power of his mind, heaven or no heaven.

    Afraid, really afraid, he remembers what once consoled him by seeming to make a hole where he looked through into underlying brightness, and lifts his eyes to the church window.

    And then he runs. But he will probably be back.

  • Identity

    So tall, he seems an unlikely Rabbit, but the breadth of his white face, the pallor of his blue irises, and a nervous flutter under his brief nose as he stabs a cigarette into his mouth partially explain the nickname, which was given to him when he too was a boy.

    Get a load of all the meat in this quote! We learn that the name Rabbit was "given" to him (by some unknown naming entity) before we learn the name he was given at birth. And we are made to know that he is literally a rabbit – possibly suggesting that he has become more and more animal as he interacts more with the world.

    Rabbit picks up his folded coat and carries it in one hand like a letter as he runs. (1.10)

    This brief sentence lights on major facets of Rabbit’s identity – animal, neatness, running – and we can see how these work together compellingly. Keep in mind the image of Rabbit running with a letter. You’ll need it later on, when we see him run home to Janice from church, with, um, a different kind of package.

    "At my mother’s? The car’s at your mother’s and the kid’s at my mother’s. Jesus. You’re a mess."
    She [Janice] stands up and her pregnancy infuriates him with its look of stubborn lumpiness. (1.34-35)

    Charming Rabbit. His hostile speech and gaze establish that Janice’s presence intrudes on his sense of positive identity, and certainly hers as well. What a briar patch. In short: get thee to a marriage counselor or a judge (or *hint* a priest).

    Well you’re a big bunny," Ruth remarks.

    This little line is significant. It’s Rabbit and Ruth’s first meeting. Right away she acknowledges that he is his name, and in so doing, that she gets him. It says she identifies with him. (Warning folks, this does not work with all names and nicknames.)

    "Who looks at coaches? They don’t do any good do they?" [says Ruth].
    "Don’t do any good? A high-school team is all coach; isn’t it?" [says Rabbit].
    Tothero answers, "It’s all boy, Harry. You can’t make gold out of lead." (2.101-103)

    Though Rabbit seems to dig his own burrows, and to not rely on other members of Team Bunny to help him, he also wants an authority figure to help him decide what to do. And that, you see, is part of what he is running from.

    For the damnedest thing about the minister was that, before, Rabbit at least had the idea he was acting wrong but now he’s got the idea he’s Jesus Christ out to save the world just by doing whatever comes into his head. (7.24)

    The Jesus stuff, Ruth got straight from the bunny’s lips, but that’s beside the point. Her concern over Rabbit’s lack of autonomy is consistent with her identity as an atheist, in contrast to Rabbit’s. She thinks Rabbit is a follower, and Eccles a leader. Her sense of positive identity lies in being neither.

    He [Eccles] seems to hear that she [Mrs. Springer] is going to call the police to arrest him. Why not? With his white collar he forges God’s name on every word he speaks. (8.9)

    Eccles’ identity is breaking apart, though he doesn’t necessarily feel like a criminal all the time, but definitely while embodying the traditional role of minister.

    He [Rabbit] feels underwater, caught in chains of transparent slime, ghosts of urgent ejaculations he has spat into the bodies of mild women. (12.28)

    Not just here, but in much of the novel, The Trap that Rabbit is always squirming to get out of threatens to take over his identity, while poisoning it with guilt. He can’t figure out how to integrate his need for freedom and his sense of duty.

    She had talked with Peggy and Reverend Eccles and prayed and had come to an understanding that marriage wasn’t a refuge it was a sharing and she and Harry would start to share everything. And then, it was a miracle, these last two weeks had been that way.
    And then Harry had suddenly put his whore’s filthiness into it and asked her to love it and the unfairness makes her cry aloud softly, as if startled by something in the empty bed with her. (17.8-9)

    Of course, we are getting Janice on the pretty end of a drinking binge, overburdened, traumatized by Rabbit, her post-pregnancy body, and her newborn – but Rabbit, Run only gives us one section from her point of view, and we do what we can, which is, for starters, to notice that she is trying desperately to separate her identity from Rabbit’s – she’s realizing that they can’t "share everything."

    Rabbit comes to the curb but instead of going to his right and around the block he steps down, with as big a feeling as if this is little sidestreet is a wide river, and crosses. He wants to travel to the next patch of snow. Although this block of brick three-stories is just like the one he left, something in it makes him happy […]. (24.106)

    This is Rabbit, at the end of the book, about to run again. His identity is neatly split, in this moment anyway, between its need for movement and change and its need for permanence and familiarity.

  • Visions of America

    So there is some space between the old stone brick house and the Sunshine Athletic Association, a tall thin brick building like a city tenement misplaced in this disordered alley of backsides and leftovers. (1.66)

    The Sunshine Athletic Association is a scary place, both for Rabbit and us. At the risk of gross oversimplification, we say the Sunshine Athletic Club is place for old men who aren’t happy at home, or who have no home. Rabbit’s old coach lives there, even though he has a wife. This vision of America speaks to some our deepest fears and concerns – homelessness and the elderly, and as technology offers us a more global identity, it’s easy to travel from the Sunshine Athletic Club in America 1959, to the world, today.

    He had thought, he had read, that from shore to shore all America was the same. He wonders, Is it just these people I’m outside, or all of America? (1.114)

    One thing to ponder here is how much the difference between what "he had thought" and "read" and what America really is and was contributed to his alienation. Then we have to ponder how much the difference between what we read in Rabbit, Run and what America really is and was will contribute to our alienation.

    The apple-and-orange colored light of a small grocery store shows the silhouettes of some kids hanging around the corner. The supermarkets are driving these little stores out of business, make them stay open all night.

    In spite of the weird grammar in the second sentence, we can unearth a wealth of touchy issues – we could argue for example, that supermarkets, by forcing out the small stores, contribute to homogenization in America. Or the reverse, that the supermarket promotes diversity through variety, on a scale with which the small store could never compete. Don’t stop, maybe we are on a roll…What about the idea that in "ethnic" neighborhoods the drama burns in a more exterior manner, while in "white people" neighborhoods, like the ones Rabbit is so comfortable and so uncomfortable in, the heat and drama is more interior, and when it leaks out, whoa…Sound controversial? We hope so.

    "I’m a farmer’s daughter. Mr. Angstrom, and I would rather have seen this land gone under to alfalfa," [said Mrs. Smith]. (6.5)

    Working in Mrs. Smith’s massive garden is "a heaven" to Rabbit and, to us at first glance, a refreshing contrast to the urban sprawl and decay and corporate takeover he so disdains. But Mrs. Smith has a different take. She only keeps it going in honor of her late husband, and, as the world’s hungry keeps getting hungrier, Mrs. Smith’s argument for sustenance farming in America continues to be highly relevant.

    "I don’t suppose when I say ‘the war’ you know which one I mean. You probably think about that Korean thing as the war," [said Mrs. Smith].
    "No, I think of the war as World War Two," [said Rabbit].
    "So do I! So do I! Do you really remember it?"
    […]
    "Our son was killed."
    […]
    "It was a good war. It wasn’t like the first. It was ours to win, and we won it. All wars are hateful things, but that one was satisfying to win." (6.8-6.27)

    Once again, Mrs. Smith hits us with our deepest fears and concerns. No small talk allowed. We can try putting Mrs. Smith’s vision of America at war in dialogue with current visions of America at war. If you are studying, say, aspects of World War Two for another class, this is a perfect opportunity to get all interdisciplinary on your teachers.

    Club Castanet was named during the war when the South American craze was on […]. It’s in the south side of Brewer, the Italian-N**** Polish side, and Rabbit distrusts it. (9.1)

    This gives us a chance to look at the agony and irony of American xenophobia, in 1959, and today. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

    Hope has vanished, he is hanging on out of despair, when the gnawing ringing stops, the metal is lifted, and openness, an impression of light and air, washes back through the wires to Eccles’ ear. (10.5)

    Man, Eccles sure can make phone calls dramatic. This is also a nifty vision of America, technology in the service of God’s work (or what Kruppenbach would call "Devil’s work" or "meddling"). We can think of how much more religion and technology interact in today’s America.

    Her mother says, "Yes you say stop when you keep bringing us all into disgrace. The first time I though it was his fault but I’m not so sure any more. Do you hear? I’m not so sure."
    Hearing this speech has made the sliding sickness in her so steep that Janice wonders if she can keep her grip on the phone. "Mother," she begs. "Please." (17.43-17.48)

    Whew. Good old mom. We recently saw a "news" program speculating whether Elliot Spitzer’s "disgrace" (he was the New York governor who got busted for visiting a call girl) was a result of his wife’s failure to satisfy him sexually. Is this a vision of America, or is the rest of the world like this, too?

    "I think marriage is a sacrament, and this tragedy, terrible as it is, has at last united you and Janice in sacred way." (19.92)

    It seems that Rebecca June’s death has only strengthened Eccles resolve that marriage is the thing, both the American dream and God’s dream. Rabbit, Run interrogates ways in which these visions of the American Dream impact families and individuals – a debate which rages even more strongly in America today.

    He [Rabbit] tries to picture how it will end, with an empty baseball field, a dark factory, and then over a brook in a dirt road, he doesn’t know. He pictures a huge vacant field of cinders and his heart goes hollow.

    Though Rabbit is a basketball man, here, as he envisions with dismay America crumbling, he evokes the sport most often associated with America and the American dream: baseball. If he’d have just stuck to baseball, none of this would have happened.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    He [Rabbit] catches it on the short bounce with a quickness which startles them. As they stare hush he sights squinting through blue clouds of weed smoke, a suddenly dark silhouette like a smokestack against the afternoon spring sky […]. (1.1)

    Weed and cigarettes both on the first page! It’s not really obvious what the novel is getting at here. This is the only time we hear about pot, but it is spoken of casually, which doesn’t necessarily meet our idea of the late 1950s. Since it’s on the very first page, should we consider it significant? What do you make of it?

    Things start anew; Rabbit plucks the pack of cigarettes from his bobbing shirt and pocket, and without breaking his stride, cans it in somebody’s open barrel. His upper lip nibbles back from his teeth in self-pleasure. (1.10)

    This might seem like a no-brainer: quit cigarettes and start a new life. Rabbit, Run explores at this seemingly simple idea rather deeply. See what happens when you trace Rabbit’s relationship with cigarettes through the novel.

    "I thought a drink might help the pain," [says Janice].

    Janice is seven-months pregnant here, and apparently has been drinking throughout her pregnancy. And no one in the book knows this is bad for the baby’s health.

    "The only way to get somewhere, you know, is to figure out where you’re going before you get there."
    Rabbit catches a whiff of whiskey. He says in a level way, "I don’t think so."[…] Rabbit pulls out, going straight. Everybody who tells you how to act has whiskey on their breath. (1.102-103)

    This is in some ways foreshadowing, and in some ways Rabbit projecting his worries over Janice’s drinking onto the world. Everybody tells Rabbit what to do, whiskey breath or not. We can also note that the gas station attendant’s advice is moot for Rabbit – even when he knows where he’s going, he doesn’t – he’s always torn between at least two places.

    "What sort of mess?" "I don’t know. My wife’s an alcoholic." "And have you tried to help her?" "Sure. How?" "Did you drink with her?" "No sir, never." […] "Perhaps you should have," Tothero offers, after a moment. "Perhaps if you had shared this pleasure with her, she could have controlled it." (1.145-1.151)

    Just when we thought we were in the middle of a temperance narrative! Tothero’s provocative argument is worth considering, or is it?

    "We didn’t win," Tothero repeats, and calls "Waiter." When the boy comes Tothero asks for another round of the same drinks.
    "No, not for me, thanks," Rabbit says. "I’m high enough on this as it is." (2.81-2.83)

    In some ways, the novel thwarts male stereotypes. Who would've thought a six foot three, red-blooded American male would get tipsy off one daiquiri? It also thwarts the stereotype that only so-called promiscuous women like Margaret and Ruth can be alcoholics. In fact, Ruth, the novel’s most sexually free character, only drinks on two occasions in the novel.

    "He asks her, "What do you want?"
    "A daiquiri."
    "You sure? You sure it won’t make you sick?" He’s noticed that, that she seems a little sick sometimes, and won’t eat, and sometimes eats the house down. (9.3-9.5)

    Rabbit’s pride in noticing Ruth symptoms of pregnancy is both touching and ironic. Touching because he notices, ironic because he doesn’t get it. It is also a comment on the lack of sex, alcohol, and pregnancy education among 20-something Americans in the late fifties.

    Eccles comes back in, looks him in the face and offers him a cigarette. The effect is somehow of a wafer of repentance and Rabbit accepts. (12.20)

    What? Smoking in the maternity ward waiting room! Into what dark world have we fallen? This is the first smoke Rabbit’s had since the beginning of the story, two months ago. The "wafer of repentance" takes on ironic and tragic connotations on that Sunday we’ve talked about before.

    "It’s all right now, now you’ll make better love to me." She giggles and tries to move in the bed. "No, I didn’t mean that, you’re a good lover you’ve given me a baby."
    "It seems to me you’re pretty sexy for somebody in your shape." (12.89-12.91)

    Janice has literally just given birth, and is under the influence of a tranquilizer "Meprobamate." Rabbit is pleased by her sexiness, and it sets his mind up to think she’s ready for sex sooner than she is. We just keep coming back to education on this stuff.

    "Forget it," he says. "She’ll conk out. Have a drink. There’s some old whiskey in the kitchen."
    "Say; what is this Have a drink routine of yours? I’ve been trying not to drink. All afternoon you’ve been smoking one cigarette after another and saying ‘Have a drink. Have a drink.’" (16.5-16.6)

    Just one piece of evidence that suggests Rabbit associates intoxication with sexual inhibition, and he’s trying to use cigarettes to stave off his sexual hunger. Not a very sexy environment, not to speak of healthy: crying Rebecca, restless Nelson, horny Rabbit, postpartum Janice, June heat, cramped apartment, and full of smoke no less. Updike knows how to paint a recipe for disaster.

    She gets out of bed and […] goes into the kitchen […] and sniffs the empty glass Harry made her drink whiskey out of. The smell is dark and raw and cozy and deep, and she thinks maybe a sip will cure her insomnia. (17.10)

    Remove "whiskey" and insert desired self-destructive behavior. Updike is certainly fixed on booze, but he’s also interrogating how we deal with extremes of physical and emotional pain – that is, often in a counterproductive manner. It doesn’t help when we are as completely alone as Janice is. Who could she possibly call that would help her now?

  • Transience

    Running. At the end of this block of the alley he turns up a street, Wilbur Street in the town of Mt. Judge, suburb of the city of Brewer, fifth largest city in Pennsylvania. Running up hill. (1.11)

    Since Rabbit is running "home" right now, is this a good example of his transience? We think so. His cramped apartment at the top of Mt. Judge always feels like a trap, and he’s always trying to wriggle out of it. The home he’s running to in this scene is a good symbol of what keeps him on the move for most of the rest of the novel.

    Rabbit freezes, standing looking at his faint yellow shadow on the white door that leads to the hall, and senses he is in a trap. It seems certain. He goes out. (1.62)

    This is another moment that might not look like transience at first glance – but other than when he goes to pick up his clothes and drop off the car the next day, this is the last time he’ll be "home" for over two months. So it’s a pivotal moment in the novel, driving forward the action.

    The thought of his [Rabbit’s] old coach crouching in there [The Sunshine Athletic Club] frightens him. (1.67)

    While Rabbit is afraid to get caught in a trap by staying still for to long, he also yearns for a place he is comfortable enough to stay – part of him wants a permanent home. That his coach, with whom Rabbit’s identity is all wrapped up, lives in a place which represents a failure to establish a home is at least part of what scares Rabbit.

    Harry’s boy is being fed, this home is happier than his, he glides a pace backwards over the cement and rewalks the silent strip of grass.
    His acts take on decisive haste. In darkness he goes down another block of Jackson. He cuts up Joseph Street, runs a block, strides another, and comes within sight of his car, its grid grinning at him, parked the wrong way on this side of the street. (1.20)

    One compelling aspect here requires us to go back several pages and examine Rabbit’s memories of growing up in this burrow. It’s different from his life with Janice for sure – there is no indication (let us know if we missed something!) that either of Rabbit’s parents were alcoholics. On the other hand, that same sense of fear, of pettiness, of cramped (though not disorganized) angst ridden living is palpable in his memories. His childhood home mirrors and contrasts his adult "home" – it strengthens his resolve to run from both it and his life with Janice and Nelson.

    He doesn’t drive five miles before this road begins to feel like a part of the same trap. The first right offered him he turns right on. A keystone marker in the headlights says 23. A good number. The first varsity game he played in he scored 23 points. (1.77)

    Isn’t this something we all do? We do it both when we decide what to buy and when we decide who to be with. Is this mediocrity or worse? Would the next road or the one after that have been better? Ahh…the signs look good – we must have decided correctly.
    Rabbit’s thought process could be considered superstitious, but again, isn’t this part of living in a technologically advanced society, learning to read the variety of information presented to us, and then to cull it for applicability to our own lives? Is the information Rabbit "reads" on the road sign actually relative to his life in the way he thinks it is?

    "You were never in Texas," she says.
    He remembers the house on that strange treeless residential street. The green night growing up from the prairie, the flowers in the window, and says, "Absolutely I was." (2.133-2.140)

    Rabbit’s mind is transient, too. His mind travels to Texas rather frequently, particularly this house, where he contracted prostitutes when he was in the Army. He does seem comfy here with Ruth though, and funny, as they match one another’s tough talk. His mind may be traveling back to Texas but his body is all here.

    Ruth was wrong; he does not want to see Janice.
    The bare possibility makes him so faint that when he gets out of the car the bright sun nearly knocks him down. (4.109-4.10)

    Sure, you could use this to talk about fear in Rabbit, Run. And fear is a major aspect of Rabbit’s transience: fear of Janice, fear of home, fear of transience itself.

    "Now if I were to leave my wife," he [Eccles] says, I’d get into a car and drive a thousand miles." It seemed almost like advice, coming calmly from above the white collar.
    "That’s what I did!" Rabbit cries, delighted by how much they have in common. (4.72-4.73)

    Is Eccles just saying this to get close to Rabbit? It doesn’t jive. This guy worships marriage. Maybe Rabbit brings out his latent transient desires. If so, it’s ironic – Eccles’ mission in Rabbit, Run is to root for Rabbit in his life with Janice.

    Out of all his remembered life the one place that comes forward where he can stand without the ground turning into faces he is treading on is the lot outside the diner in West Virginia after he went in and had a cup of coffee the night he drove down there. (15.51)

    This seems pretty way out. He felt completely alienated in the diner and when he was in the parking lot, so why does it seem like such a happy place now?…Oh yeah, because he was so alienated. Perhaps if we are completely alienated from everyone, we will have no responsibilities but to ourselves. At this moment, Rabbit feels like such a menace to society that extreme alienation is a relief.

    Rabbit comes to the curb but instead of going to the right and around the block he steps down, with as big a feeling as if this little sidestreet is a wide river, and crosses. He wants to travel to the next patch of snow. (20.106)

    Has Rabbit embracing guiltlessly his inner homeless guy? Will he return to Ruth? Go back to Janice? Move into the Sunshine Athletic Club? Find out in the sequel, Rabbit, Redux.

  • Guilt and Blame

    He blames everything on that farmer with the glasses and the two shirts. (1.122)

    This is after the lover’s lane incident. Right after he tears up the map. He seems to be referring to the guy that told him he head to know where he’s going before he can get there.

    "He [Rabbit] is my enemy," Angstrom says. (8.91)

    We wonder if Rabbit’s dad still feels way at the end of the book, after Rabbit runs from the burial service.

    "If you have the guts to be yourself," he [Rabbit] says, "other people’ll pay your price." (7.25)

    Is Rabbit talking trash out of anger, or does he really feel this way. Either way, does he feel differently at the end of the book?

    Eccles is relieved Janice is out of the house; he feels guiltiest in her presence. (8.1)

    He feels guilty around Janice because he favors Rabbit. Other passages indicate he really doesn’t like Janice at all. There are probably other reasons he feels guilty.

    "The first time I thought it was all his fault but I’m not so sure anymore. Do you hear? I’m not so sure."(17.46)

    Why does it have to be somebody’s fault? Can’t people break up in peace? Janice’s mom is pretty rough on her.

    Tothero didn’t seem to hear. "Don’t you remember? My begging you to go back?" (16.8).

    Even Tothero thinks he’s guilty of Rebecca June’s murder. The ironic thing is, he doesn’t realize that Rabbit did go back.

    "Christian!" […] Kills his baby and that’s what you call him." (18.14)

    Well, we know who Lucy blames. But she feels guilt too, probably. She’s sensitive enough to remember that this happened after her encounter with him that Sunday. It’s not immediately clear why this would make her feel guilty, but we can intuit it.

    Immersed in hate he doesn’t have to do anything; he can be paralyzed, and the rigidity of hatred makes a kind of a shelter for him. (20.18)

    Hate is probably not the healthiest way to deal with guilt. But when the pain is that bad, it’s hard to know what to do. We want to feel better but we also want to punish ourselves.

    "You’re Mr. Death himself. You’re not nothing, you’re worse than nothing. You’re not a rat, you don’t stink, you’re not enough to stink." (20.72)

    Ruth’s and Rabbit’s is a bittersweet reunion. She’s deeply hurt by being left (even though she faulted him before for staying) and is deeply threatened by what happened. Ruth feels guilty, too. Ultimately she wants to be with him, but would her guilt and blame color their relationship?

    God, dear God, no, not another one, you have one, let this one go. A dirty knife turns in his inner darkness. (20.75)

    Right after his daughter’s funeral is not the right time to pretend you might have had an abortion, but this is exactly what Ruth does. Yes, she’s desperate, but does it help either of them? She’s using Rabbit’s feelings of guilt to get what she wants, but she’s doing it in large part to try to get rid of her own guilt – by removing the sin from their unborn child through marriage.