Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Sex

By John Updike


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.