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THINGS FALLING APART: STRUCTURE AND THEME IN "RABBIT, RUN"
CLINTON S. BURHANS JR.
Studies in the Novel
Vol. 5, No. 3 (fall 1973), pp. 336-351
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29531608
Page Count: 16
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John Updike's Rabbit, Run (1960) defines neither absurd saint nor sociological victim but rather the dynamic tension between an individual and his social milieu in a time when its basic institutions are disintegrating. Increasingly frustrated and disillusioned, seeking a meaning and purpose he can nowhere find, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom moves, like his namesake, in the closing trap of ever more frantic and tightening circles. The novel is built on such circles, beginning with a wide geographical one and ending in the disappearing point of a subjective one. Within this structure, Updike explores the polarity which causes it: Rabbit's inward and outward potentialities. Both originate in his social milieu, but family, school, and church, disintegrating in purpose and function, blunt his outward possibilities and accelerate his inward turning. His sexual experience is both record and symbol of this wasting development. The central experience of the novel is less social criticism or individual portrayal than it is an almost dispassionate inquiry, characteristic of Updike, to combine contemporary experience and observation with historical analysis and explanation in patterns of understanding whose significance is the sobering view they provide on a civilization apparently losing its power to civilize. (CSB)
Studies in the Novel © 1973 The Johns Hopkins University Press