Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Chapter 20

By John Updike

Chapter 20

  • Rabbit waits for the bus to Mt. Judge, and gets on when it comes.
  • Last night he went to Ruth’s but she wasn’t home, so he slept in a motel, waking in time to go to work, but “something” kept him away all day.
  • He tries to figure out what the “something” was, sure that it killed Rebecca.
  • He knew that part of it was wanting to see Ruth and waiting around all day for her.
  • But he’d eventually given up.
  • He realizes that he knew something wasn’t right at his apartment, but stayed away hoping he would find a way not to have to go back.
  • He knew it wasn’t Janice’s fault, but still felt like he was trapped in a life he didn’t want.
  • He tries to get rid of that feeling on the bus, but only succeeds in getting sick to his stomach. From the bus stop in Mt. Judge he goes to the Springers’ and knocks, and Mrs. Springer closes it when she sees it’s him. Soon Eccles lets him in and tells him Janice is sedated. When he asks about the baby, Eccles tells him: “The undertaker has her.”
  • Nelson comes and Rabbit holds him and listens to his son’s short, almost impassive recounting of the events.
  • Eccles suggests they go outside, and they do until Mr. Springer calls them to dinner.
  • Rabbit can’t eat and Mr. Springer tells him that he and his wife have been talking to Eccles.
  • They still think Rabbit is at fault, but that they have a share in it, too, having made Janice feel insecure all her life.
  • Mr. Springer tells Rabbit they want to let bygones be bygones and to just keep going.
  • Rabbit promises to do his part. Rabbit puts Nelson to bed and tells him he’s “a good boy.”
  • Nelson asks if the baby has died and Rabbit tells him she has, but that she is feeling good now.
  • He asks Mr. Springer if he should stay, and Mr. Springer tells him to come back in the morning.
  • They talk about Rabbit’s job at the lot (he isn’t fired) and then goes to the apartment.
  • The water is still in the tub and he drains it, amazed that God couldn’t have just pulled the plug like he did.
  • He goes to bed, thinking he won’t sleep, but he does for a bit, then wakes and rushes over to the Springers to try to see Janice, begging forgiveness all the way there.
  • Mrs. Springer gives him coffee and he goes to Janice.
  • She tells him she doesn’t want to see anyone but him, and he tells her he doesn’t blame her, only himself. He spends the day there, and Tothero comes to see him.
  • Tothero is in bad shape, and mostly wants reassurance from Rabbit that he told him what to do and that Rabbit didn’t listen to him.
  • It’s very awkward and Rabbit is glad to see him go. Later he talks to Eccles, and wants his advice.
  • Eccles advises him to be a good husband and father throughout his life, and that in this way he will find “forgiveness.”
  • He claims it’s his fault as much as Rabbit’s, and that as horrible as what happened is, it has brought Rabbit and Janice together.
  • This brings Rabbit some comfort, even though it doesn’t seem to jive with the reality of the world around him.