Study Guide

Rabbit, Run Religion

By John Updike


Rabbit, Run is suffused with religious questioning. Much of the religious debate in the novel relates to variations of Christian philosophy, but Freudianism (treated something like a religion), atheism, and a brief appearance, or rather, disappearance of the Dalai Lama provide interesting contrasts. Some of these perspectives are pretty risky for the McCarthy-ist and Red Scare era 1959 that provides the backdrop for Rabbit, Run. The drowning death of a newborn baby challenges the religious beliefs of many of the characters, and even provokes her father to dream of founding a new religion, based on "the truth" about life and death. The end of the novel does not tell us if he fulfills the dream’s prophecy.

Questions About Religion

  1. Why does Rabbit go to church that Sunday?
  2. In the section from Eccles’s point of view we learn that he feels like a fraud mouthing ‘Our Father’ when his heart knows the real father he is trying to please, has been trying to please all his life, is "the God who smokes cigars." What is he talking about? Is there any other mention of smoking cigars in the novel? Can we connect this to any historical figure mentioned? Or is this just figurative language? If so, how might we interpret it?
  3. Does Rebecca June’s death pose a threat to Eccles’s faith?

Chew on This

Rabbit is constantly held up as a Christ figure in the novel. By doing this, Updike mocks the Christian idea of one man paying for the sins of an entire society.

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