Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Chapter 23

By John Updike

Chapter 23

  • The funeral home is furnished in unnatural colors and they wait in a windowed waiting room.
  • Rabbit sees his family drive up, and when he announces this, everyone rises to greet them.
  • Mrs. Angstrom hugs Rabbit and says: “Hassy, what have they done to you?”
  • Then she goes and embraces Janice, calling her her daughter.
  • Eccles has come, and they have a small service during which Eccles recites from John 11:25.
  • Rabbit feels that no one around him is real and true except his Rebecca, and he starts to cry as the service continues, as he realizes the permanency of her death.
  • Then they put they put the coffin in the hearse and go to the cemetery.
  • The burial service is held, and the coffin lowered into the ground mechanically.
  • As the service continues, he feels like everyone there is helping to send Becky to heaven.
  • Rabbit looks at Janice, and tells her it was not him that did this, causing people to look at him.
  • He repeats to them that it was Janice, not him. Then he is completely mortified and runs away.
  • Eccles and others chase him and he goes into the woods, but realizing he’s still findable goes deeper and deeper.
  • He gets lost, and scares himself badly, but finally finds his way out, and then decides to at least call Eccles, because Eccles is really his friend.
  • When he calls, Lucy answers and then hangs up on him, which he takes to mean she will finally tell Eccles he smacked her behind, and that their relationship will be over, finally.
  • He feels a little better, feels that his daughter is in heaven now.
  • He gets to Ruth’s and she tells him to scram, to go back to Janice.
  • He explains that he’s left for good, though Ruth doesn’t buy it.
  • He guesses she’s pregnant and expresses dismay and makes to hug her, but she scratches him and moves behind a chair, yelling at him to leave.
  • They argue about him having gone to Janice, when she needed him after the blowjob incident.
  • He says he had to go and wasn’t aware she was pregnant.
  • She thinks he should have guessed, and he wants to know why she kept it from him.
  • She asks him to go, and he says he’s happy she’s having a baby, but she intimates that she had an abortion.
  • Rabbit is scared, and Ruth asks him how he can be there, with what happened to his daughter, who she accuses him of killing.
  • Rabbit finds out that she heard this from Eccles, who had called not long before Rabbit’s arrival.
  • He blames Janice, and asks not to have to discuss it.
  • They argue and he asks her: “Did you have an abortion?” and prays there is not another child’s death on his hands. Ruth explains that she tried to but couldn’t.
  • Rabbit tells her she is “good” and that he loves her.
  • She pulls away from him and they argue and she tells him she’s been to see her parents in west Brewer and told them about the baby, and then she gives him an ultimatum.
  • She wants him to get a divorce and marry her and find a way to support her and the baby, or (and the wording is slightly ambiguous here, but this is most likely) she will disappear from his life forever, and have an abortion.
  • He agrees and leaves to go get something from the deli, telling Ruth he won’t be long.
  • When he’s outside he gets scared about everything, but then thinks two things that help him:
    1. That Ruth will keep the baby.
    2. That she has parents.
  • He feels he can leave Janice and Ruth, and that their parents will take care of them.
  • He knows it’s not so easy when it comes to Nelson, and then he weighs all the elements of his life on that consideration.
  • He is so scared but looks up and sees a light in the church window, and this moves him to walk.
  • He doesn’t have any idea what he will do. He embraces his doubt, and then decides he wants to move on and, then, of course, with a sigh of relief, he runs.
  • (Don’t worry – if you want to know what happens, there are three more Rabbit books!)