Rabbit, Run | Study Guide

John Updike

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Course Hero. "Rabbit, Run Study Guide." March 16, 2018. Accessed January 20, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Rabbit-Run/.


Course Hero, "Rabbit, Run Study Guide," March 16, 2018, accessed January 20, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Rabbit-Run/.

Rabbit, Run | Epigraph | Summary


Rabbit, Run has three numbered parts and no chapters. This study guide divides each part into sections based on continuity of plot elements for the purpose of summary and analysis.


The brief epigraph which begins Rabbit, Run is an excerpt from the Pensées (1670) of French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and Catholic thinker Blaise Pascal. The epigraph reads, "The motions of grace, the hardness of the heart; external circumstances."


Blaise Pascal was a 17th-century French intellectual whose work has been a significant influence on modern thought and has laid the groundwork for modern understandings of probability, atmospheric pressure, and even the computer. In his later years, Pascal experienced a mystical and emotional conversion to Christianity, and Updike's epigraph is an excerpt from a text defending the faith that was incomplete when Pascal died.

By using Pascal's words as an epigraph, Updike situates Rabbit, Run within a lineage of religious and philosophical understanding. The epigraph's words are an elegant container for the text's meaning, suggesting that the story which follows will best be understood by readers who keep these three elements in mind. Indeed throughout the novel, protagonist Rabbit Angstrom finds himself in the middle of a shifting network of internal, external, and supernatural experiences of grace, or unearned blessings. Ultimately unable to balance these three elements, Rabbit fails to grow in understanding or to make better choices as a result of his experiences.
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