Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Chapter 6

By John Updike

Chapter 6

  • Time passes and we find Rabbit in Mrs. Smith’s “acres,” tending her lush beds from dawn to dusk, then bussing back to Brewer.
  • Two months have gone by, and the gardening has made it so he doesn’t have to cut his fingernails. He loves this life among nature – the simplicity, the solitude, and the interactions between himself, and nature, and his tools.
  • The rhododendron plantation part of the garden is in full splendor: a botanical equivalent to Rabbit’s zone. It’s near the end of May.
  • Of course, the different flowers in the garden remind Rabbit of women. Some he’s known, and some he imagines and would like to know.
  • Mrs. Smith comes out to witness this rhododendron peak. On Rabbit’s arms she goes among the flowers.
  • She holds on to him like a “vine” holds a “wall.” She is vulnerable, but has a pretty good hold. She is very old and making great effort; she is pretty cheerful too.
  • She tells Rabbit that she used to tease her late husband, Horace, about the rhododendrons.
  • She would say she preferred straightforward colors to the wishy-washy “salmon” of the “Rhody.” She says she said it to tease him, but that she meant it.
  • She would have preferred the acres had been used to grow alfalfa, or buckwheat – edible crops. She could give Horace the business like that because she was older than him.
  • She is surprised she outlived him. She does fancy one rhododendron of deep shining pink, the Bianchi. She gets a little wild and asks if the month is June.
  • He says: “Not quite. Memorial Day’s next Saturday.”
  • She talks about buying the Bianchi during the Depression, before the war.
  • She says he probably thinks she means the Korean War (1950-1953) when she says “the war.” He says he thinks “the war” is World War II.
  • She agrees, excited that Rabbit remembers it.
  • She says they lost a thirty-nine-year-old son to the war.
  • She says she hates war, but that World War II was worth winning, not like World War I.
  • She talks more about the Bianchi, but thinks she’s repeating herself and gets flustered.
  • She claims theirs is the only Bianchi in the U.S.
  • She starts moving faster. It’s getting late.
  • As they walk she says: “I appreciate the beauty but I’d rather see alfalfa.”
  • She doesn’t know why she can’t make peace with her surroundings.
  • She talks about being sarcastic with a woman who called the garden “heaven” year after year, admonishing herself and calling herself “an old sinner.”
  • She thinks it’s ironic that the woman, Alma Foster, is dead and knows the truth about heaven.
  • Rabbit speculates that Alma’s heaven is rhododendron, while Mrs. Smith’s will be alfalfa.
  • Mrs. Smith loves this and agrees wholeheartedly. Commonality is achieved!