Rabbit, Run
Rabbit, Run is a 1960 novel by John Updike
John Updike
John Hoyer Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic....

The novel depicts five months in the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life. It spawned several sequels, including Rabbit Redux
Rabbit Redux
Rabbit Redux is a 1971 novel by John Updike. It is the second book in his "Rabbit" series, beginning with Rabbit, Run and followed by Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit At Rest, and the related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered.-Plot summary:...

, Rabbit Is Rich
Rabbit Is Rich
Rabbit Is Rich is a 1981 novel by John Updike. It is the third novel of the four-part series which begins with Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux, and concludes with Rabbit At Rest. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered...

and Rabbit At Rest
Rabbit At Rest
Rabbit at Rest is a 1990 novel by John Updike. It is the fourth and final novel in a series beginning with Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; and Rabbit is Rich. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered...

, as well as a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered
Rabbit Remembered
Rabbit Remembered is a 2001 novella by John Updike, and a sequel to his "Rabbit" series. It first appeared in his collection of short fiction titled Licks of Love....


Plot summary

Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is 26, has a job selling a kitchen gadget named MagiPeeler, and is married to Janice, a former salesgirl at the store where he worked. They have a two-year-old son named Nelson, and live in Mount Judge, a suburb of Brewer, Pennsylvania
Brewer, Pennsylvania
Brewer, Pennsylvania is a fictional city that serves as the major setting for American writer John Updike's "Rabbit" cycle of novels .Brewer is described as being the "fifth largest city in Pennsylvania" and seems to have many...

. He believes that his marriage is a failure and that something is missing from his life: Having been a basketball star in high school, Harry finds middle-class family life unsatisfying. On the spur of the moment, he decides to leave his family and drive south in an attempt to "escape." However, after getting lost, he returns to his home town. Not wanting to return to his family, he instead visits his old basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

 coach, Marty Tothero.

That night, Harry has dinner with Tothero and two girls, one of whom, Ruth Leonard, is a part-time prostitute. Harry and Ruth begin a two-month affair, and Harry moves into her apartment. During this time, Janice moves back into her parents' house and the local Episcopal
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

 priest, Jack Eccles, befriends Harry in a futile attempt to get him to reconcile with his wife. Nonetheless, Harry remains with Ruth until the night he learns that she had a fling with his high school nemesis, Ronnie Harrison. Enraged, Harry coerces Ruth into to fellating him. The same night, Harry learns that Janice has given birth, and he leaves Ruth to visit his wife at the hospital.

Reunited with Janice, Harry returns home with her and their daughter, named Rebecca June. Harry attends church one morning and, after walking the minister's wife Lucy home, interprets an invitation from her to come in for a coffee as a sexual advance. When he refuses, she slams the door on him in apparent disgust. Harry returns to his apartment, and, happy about the birth of his daughter, tries to reconcile with Janice. He encourages her to have a whiskey, then, misreading her mood, pressures her to have sex in spite of her postnatal condition. When she refuses and accuses him of treating her like a prostitute, Harry dry humps her, punches her, then leaves her in an attempt to reunite with Ruth. Distraught, Janice gets drunk, and accidentally drowns Rebecca June in the bath tub.

Tothero visits Harry and suggests that the thing he is looking for probably does not exist. At Rebecca June's funeral, Harry's internal and external conflicts result in a sudden proclamation of his innocence in the baby's death. He then runs from the graveyard, pursued by Jack Eccles, until he becomes lost.

After wandering in the woods, Harry returns to Ruth and learns that she is pregnant by him. Though Harry is relieved to discover she has not had an abortion, he is unwilling to divorce Janice. Harry abandons Ruth, still chasing the fleeting feeling he has attempted to grasp during the course of the novel; his fate is uncertain as the novel concludes.


  • Harry Angstrom, a.k.a. Rabbit, a 26-year-old man. Married to Janice Angstrom. He was a basketball star in high school and begins the novel as a kitchen gadget salesman.
  • Miriam Angstrom, a.k.a Mim, Rabbit's 19-year-old sister.
  • Mr. Angstrom, Rabbit's father.
  • Mrs. Angstrom, Rabbit's mother.
  • Janice Angstrom, Rabbit's wife.
  • Nelson Angstrom, Harry and Janice's 2-year-old son.
  • Rebecca June Angstrom, Harry and Janice's infant daughter. Janice accidentally drowns her in a bath while drunk.
  • Mr. Springer, Janice's father. A used car dealer.
  • Mrs. Springer, Janice's mother. She is harshly critical of Harry when he leaves Janice.
  • Jack Eccles, a young Episcopal
    Episcopal Church (United States)
    The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

     priest. He tries to mend Harry and Janice's broken marriage.
  • Lucy Eccles, Jack Eccles's wife. She blames the lack of love in her marriage with Jack on his job taking up too much of his time.
  • Fritz Kruppenbach, the Angstroms' Lutheran minister. He tells Jack Eccles that Harry and Janice are best left to themselves.
  • Ruth Leonard, Rabbit's mistress with whom he lives for three months. She is a former prostitute and lives alone in an apartment for two people. She is weight-conscious.

Margaret Kosko, a friend of Ruth's. Probably also a prostitute. She is contemptuous of Tothero.
  • Mrs. Smith, a widow whose garden Rabbit looks after while away from his wife. She is 73 years old.
  • Marty Tothero, Rabbit's former basketball coach. He was popular in high school but got dismissed from his job due to a 'scandal'. He cheats on his wife but gives marital advice to Harry. After suffering two strokes, he becomes disabled.
  • Ronnie Harrison, One of Rabbit's former basketball team-mates. He has slept with Margaret Kosko and Ruth Leonard.

Rabbit and Angstrom

A rabbit is "a person likened to a rabbit, typically in being timid or ineffectual; a poor or novice player" and "a runner who intentionally sets a fast pace for a teammate during a long-distance race."

Besides its other associations, Updike may have chosen the name Rabbit for his character for its echo of Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...

's Babbitt
Babbitt (novel)
Babbitt, first published in 1922, is a novel by Sinclair Lewis. Largely a satire of American culture, society, and behavior, it critiques the vacuity of middle-class American life and its pressure on individuals toward conformity....

, whose main theme "focuses on the power of conformity, and the vacuity of middle-class American life." This is unlikely, however, as Updike claims not to have read Lewis's novel until after he wrote Rabbit at Rest
Rabbit At Rest
Rabbit at Rest is a 1990 novel by John Updike. It is the fourth and final novel in a series beginning with Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; and Rabbit is Rich. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered...


Updike said in interviews that the name Angstrom was inspired by his reading of Kierkegaard and meant to suggest 'stream of Angst
Angst is an English, German, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch word for fear or anxiety . It is used in English to describe an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety or inner turmoil...


Literary significance

The text of the novel went through several rewrites. Knopf originally required Updike to cut some "sexually explicit passages," but he restored and rewrote the book for the 1963 Penguin edition and again for the 1995 Everyman's omnibus edition.

Though it had been done earlier, as in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Camus' The Fall, Updike's novel is noted as being one of several well regarded, early usages of the present tense. Updike stated:

Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

Film adaptation

In 1970, the novel was made into a film
Rabbit, Run (film)
Rabbit, Run is a 1970 American film based on the novel by John Updike and starring James Caan, Carrie Snodgress and directed by Jack Smight.-Plot:...

 directed by Jack Smight
Jack Smight
Jack Smight was an American theatre and film director.Smight was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and went to school with future actor Peter Graves...

 and starring James Caan as Rabbit, Carrie Snodgress
Carrie Snodgress
Caroline "Carrie" Snodgress was an American actress.-Biography:Snodgress was born in Park Ridge, Illinois. She attended Maine Township High School East in Park Ridge then Northern Illinois University before leaving to pursue acting. Snodgress trained for the stage at the Goodman Theatre, in Chicago...

 as Janice and Jack Albertson
Jack Albertson
Jack Albertson was an American character actor dating to vaudeville. A comedian, dancer, singer, and musician, Albertson is perhaps best known for his roles as Manny Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure , Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Amos Slade in the 1981 animated film The Fox...

 as Marty. The script was co-written by Updike and Howard B. Kreitsek. The poster reads, "3 months ago Rabbit Angstrom ran out to buy his wife cigarettes. He hasn't come home yet."

External links

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