Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Guilt and Blame

By John Updike

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.