Novel by John Updike, published in 1960. The first in a series of three, it presents 26-year-old Harry Angstrom, whose nickname, Rabbit, comes from his glorious days as a high-school basketball champion in the small town of Brewer, Pa. Now, frustrated by the responsibilities of marriage to Janice (pregnant and an alcoholic) and fatherhood to three-year-old Nelson, and by an inconsequential job demonstrating the MagiPeel kitchen implement, he decides to run away. His former athletic coach, Tothero, bucks him up and introduces him to an appealing young woman, Ruth, who becomes pregnant by him. With tragic irony, his legitimate child is born but soon accidentally drowns when his drunken wife is bathing her.
Rabbit, Redux (1971) depicts the Angstrom household just ten years later, long after Harry's return to a marriage that is still a shambles. He gets no stability from his father-in-law's successful place in the town's middle-class society as owner of an automobile sales agency. On the contrary, a suave Greek salesman for Springer Motors, Charlie Stavros, temporarily woos Janice away from Rabbit. Caught up in the social turmoil of the 1960s, he befriends two radicals, a young man and woman, and the latter is accidentally killed by neighbors who are infuriated by the young people's way of life.
Rabbit Is Rich (1981) treats the Angstroms still another decade later. Rabbit and Janice have now inherited a half interest in his late father-in-law's business and, having found a kind of place in society, he is a member of the local country club. He is resigned to good relations with Stavros, and he sees Ruth to determine if a chance acquaintance is their daughter. Rabbit finds that the girl is not his daughter, but he does become involved in paternal problems with his son Nelson, now in college, who has gotten his girl friend pregnant.
Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).
Related content in Oxford Index
John Updike (1932—2009) American novelist, poet, and short-story writer