Literature Study GuidesRabbit RunPart 2 Section 7 Summary

Rabbit, Run | Study Guide

John Updike

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Rabbit, Run | Part 2, Section 7 | Summary

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Summary

That night, out of boredom, Rabbit accompanies Ruth to a bar, the Castanet Club. Rabbit doesn't understand why their life together has lost its initial ease or why Ruth keeps trying to make him feel guilty. At the bar they meet Margaret Kosko and Ronnie Harrison, Ruth's old friend and Rabbit's former teammate.

Rabbit senses the evening is a repeat of the night he met Ruth at the Chinese restaurant. This time, however, Rabbit rather than Tothero is the odd one out. Rabbit's fixation on Harrison's flaws sharpens into hatred as Harrison, with his glib salesman-like ways, amuses the women and commands their attention. Harrison says Marty Tothero told him he, not Rabbit, was his most valuable player. Worse, Ronnie and Ruth begin reminiscing fondly about their shared past. Rabbit realizes he is no more special to Ruth than Ronnie and becomes angry.

When Rabbit's sister, Miriam, walks in with a young man, Rabbit goes to their table and tells her she has no business being in such a place. When Miriam's date challenges Rabbit's authority, Rabbit grabs him and roughs him up. Walking back to his table, Rabbit overhears him tell Miriam her brother is "in love with you." Rabbit then makes Ruth leave with him, even though she doesn't want to go.

Rabbit submits Ruth to a cruel interrogation about the details of her sexual past, forcing her to admit having slept with Harrison. Tired of Rabbit's overblown ego, Ruth wants to break up, but knowledge of her pregnancy keeps her from acting decisively. Rabbit insists Ruth has betrayed him and implies his continued presence depends on her giving him oral sex because this is what she did for Ronnie in the past. "Tonight you turned against me," he says. "I need to see you on your knees," and Ruth complies.

Meanwhile Janice has gone into labor, and Lucy Eccles spends hours trying to track down her husband. Starting to feel as though Jack has deserted her too, she resents the parishioners who have destroyed his "gaiety." Jack Eccles rushes in from the drugstore around 11 that night and calls Rabbit. Reluctantly agreeing to go to the hospital, Rabbit tells Ruth he'll be back soon. When she doesn't respond, he tells her he will leave for good if she doesn't say something. She says nothing, and he runs to the hospital. As he sits in the waiting room, he is tormented by the idea that either Janice or the infant will die because of his sin, "a conglomerate of flight, cruelty, obscenity, and conceit."

Analysis

In the previous chapter Rabbit is convinced he possesses the special powers of a "mystic." The events of this chapter, on the other hand, cause his emotional pendulum to swing in the other direction. In the space of a few hours Rabbit is on the verge of breaking down in shame, guilt, and fear. Rabbit's plunge toward despair begins with the mean-spirited Ronnie Harrison, who crushes Rabbit's inflated sense of superiority in the two areas most important to him: women and basketball. Not only does Harrison show Rabbit he is not special to Ruth, he makes a claim that calls into question Rabbit's supremacy as a teenage basketball star.

Rabbit's ego has already taken this blow when his sister Miriam walks into the bar. Although this meeting is the first time the plot has drawn brother and sister into the same space, Rabbit's flashbacks have shown his childhood relationship with his sister is still important to him. As the younger sister, Miriam adored and needed Rabbit. This childhood experience of exercising control over a female who revered him unquestioningly has shaped his expectations of adult male-female relationships. Indeed Miriam's companion's comment about Rabbit's being in love with her is not far off, as Rabbit keeps trying—and failing—to recreate with Ruth and Janice what he had as a child with Miriam. Now Miriam is grown up, detached, and unimpressed with Rabbit. Until now Rabbit has thought of himself as Miriam's powerful, adored big brother, but this interaction destroys such feelings.

Rabbit's reaction is to be verbally aggressive with Ronnie Harrison, physically aggressive with Miriam's date, and sexually aggressive, or coercive, with Ruth. Just when Rabbit has begun to patch up his ego by forcing Ruth into oral sex, he must begin facing the consequences of his actions with Janice. The hospital waiting room is like a trap for Rabbit in which he can neither run nor manipulate other people. It is also like a mirror, for Rabbit has nothing to do but look at himself.

What he sees torments and horrifies him. His guilt takes the shape of an ominous fear his actions will result in his wife's or infant's death. Rabbit still believes what he told Ruth in an earlier chapter: other people would pay the price for his actions. Smug about it then, he now experiences the horror of what those words actually mean.

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