Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rabbit Run - John Updike

And thus continueth the depressing theme of Time's Top 100 List. Must all "good" novels be filled with gloom and doom? Has no one "important" read The Confederacy of Dunces? Brilliant novel. FUNNY novel. And yet, not in the top 100. Harumph. I digress...
Rabbit, Run. As much as I'd like to bash Updike for basically rewriting Revolutionary Road minus the female perspective, he died this year so I decided to think a little more critically about this novel. Also, as it turns out, Revolutionary Road was published one year after Rabbit, Run. Who's copying who now, Mr. Yates?
The point is, after reading the book I thought "oh good, another story about a man who gets tired of his wife and leaves her and just when he decides to do the right thing something terrible happens with/to/because of the wife and he says 'oh gee, I was right after all. She really is the worst'".
But it's more than that. While I wish Updike had given Janice one redeeming quality (it's difficult to sympathize with a hopelessly daft girl who drinks while pregnant), this book wasn't about the woman. He left her perspective out for a reason. It seems that we always hear about how life trapped women into loveless marriages because there was a very strict societal system in place that one was made to follow - but here, with Rabbit, Run, Updike is demonstrating that men were just as easily trapped. That, men too, failed to live up to their potential, or find themselves; find something,anything, because marriage and family were made to be far more important than self actualization and happiness.
When Rabbit decides to take his journey, he is punished for it. Everyone blames him and rushes to Janice's side. Only their pastor, Eccles, is able to appreciate, however conflictedly, Rabbit's thirst for truth and a sense of fulfillment. This novel questions whether we can ever truly be happy whilst living within our societal constraints. How much do we hold ourselves back? In clinging to the past, how much of our future do we sacrifice?
This novel has several sequels, and if I ever make my way through this list, maybe I'll pick up the next and see what Rabbit is up to. For now, I'm hoping for something a little less dreary.
Currently Reading: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (on the list)

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