Rabbit Run!

John Updike


Rabbit, Run is a 1960 novel by John Updike. The novel ranges in a three month in timespan of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life.


Third person

Most of Rabbit, Run is told from the perspective of Harry Angstrom, occasionally the narrator will slip into other characters’ heads. At the beginning of the novel, we see Rabbit through the eyes of some young men playing basketball. In one section, we see Ruth through Rabbit’s eyes, and then Rabbit through Ruth’s eyes. The novel’s most harrowing section is narrated from Janice’s perspective. We also gain insight from peering into the minds of Jack and Lucy Eccles.
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Many characters in Rabbit, Run say, do, and think harsh things. But a tone of sympathy, and even love pervades. These folks are very judgmental; like when Rabbit calls Janice stupid, or when he calls himself a criminal. The tough talking narrator, though it seems to call for a complete overhaul of social norms, also seems to suggest that we are all just people, and people make mistakes. When we are able to identify with flawed or disliked characters, we can sometimes gain real introspection, as well as a deeper understanding of those around us.

Where does the title come from?

Rabbit refers to Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Rabbit is almost as much bunny as he is man. Rabbit running is one thing we can count on in this tragic tale of the American Dream gone bad. He’s running to get out of a “trap” and at the same time, running after that perfect combination of "veggies". He’s not sure if he’s missing something that will make the dream complete or what are parts of the trap. All the suspects could be either part of the trap or part of the answer, but most likely, both.

Rabbit, Run is also about trying to be a grown up – but without being totally miserable because of all that responsibility that comes with it.
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Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

Rabbit is torn between the unknown and the familiar so to speak. His life with pregnant, alcoholic Janice and toddler Nelson seems like a trap. When he hits the open road, it feels like a trap, too.


Rabbit compromises between the familiar and the unknown. He stays in the same area, but instead of the wife and kid, he lives "in sin" with Ruth, an ex-prostitute. That he’s doing it so close to home arguably creates more conflict than if he’d left altogether.


When Janice goes into labor, Rabbit decides to change his ways, walk the straight and narrow, like everybody says he should. But, unfortunately to Rabbit, he does not know that Ruth is knocked up, too, which, of course, sets us up for all kinds of complications. Now he can't "do the right thing" in the society in which he’s living. He can’t really be married to both women, and raise both sets of children.


Apparently, church makes Rabbit have sexual desires. Unfortunately, this particular Sunday Janice is still too sore from giving birth to satisfy his urges. And she’s still pretty mad about Rabbit living with Ruth. He makes her feel awful and then leaves. She gets drunk, and all of the tension in the novel explodes. The baby’s death also sets off the guilt and blame fest that the novel becomes.


Rabbit feels very guilty and angry. The trap is closing in on Rabbit from all sides, and he’s really trying to want what everyone says he should want: to live with Janice forever, atoning for Rebecca June’s untimely death, which he really does think he caused, even though he wasn’t there. It’s pretty suspenseful because we both do and don’t want him to stay, because we wonder what will happen to Ruth.


With his daughter buried, Rabbit feels the pressure dissolve, and suddenly feels the need to let everybody at the funeral know that Janice is guilty, not him. Just before he does, he feels really embarrassed so he runs. First into the woods, and then downhill, into Brewer, to see Ruth.


He eventually runs from Ruth, too, after she threatens to abort the baby if he doesn’t divorce Janice and marry her. But no one knows where he goes? It’s totally open-ended. The only clue we get is that Rabbit now considers Nelson the most important thing in his life. So will Rabbit come back, and if he does, will he stay with Janice, marry Ruth, or raise Nelson as a single dad.


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Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom

Janice Angstrom

Nelson Angstrom

Rebecca June Angstrom

Ruth Leonard

Jack Eccles

Marty Tothers

Mrs. Mary Angstrom

Mr. Springer

Mr. Earl Angstrom

Margaret Kosko

Lucy Eccles

Mrs. Smith


Friday, Oct. 16th, 7pm

Hanson Field, Macomb, IL, United States

Macomb, IL


Saturday, Oct. 17th, 7-10pm

1 University Cir

Macomb, IL