Literature Study GuidesRabbit RunPart 2 Section 8 Summary

Rabbit, Run | Study Guide

John Updike

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Rabbit, Run | Part 2, Section 8 | Summary

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Summary

Midnight passes, and Rabbit is still waiting, tormented by the idea his child will be a "monster of his own making" and Janice could die. He feels better as he remembers Mary Ann, his high school girlfriend who married another while he was in the army. When Janice's parents come into the room, Mrs. Springer accuses Rabbit of waiting for Janice to die. Though hate-filled, the accurate accusation makes Rabbit feel less alone.

After their daughter is born, Rabbit goes in to visit Janice. High on painkillers, she is affectionate and forgiving. Rabbit cries when she tells him Nelson asks every day when he'll return, and Rabbit claims not to know why he ever left. Back in the waiting room Rabbit is horrified when Eccles asks whether he's going to Ruth's, and Rabbit accepts Eccles's invitation to spend the night at his house.

Lucy Eccles wakes Rabbit after noon and gives him breakfast. She tells him Eccles is ecstatic because he takes all the credit for Rabbit's return to Janice. Rabbit thinks Lucy desires him and is almost certain she winks at him as he leaves, reluctantly, for the hospital, where Rabbit is surprised to encounter Harriet Tothero, his old coach's wife, at the hospital. She takes him to the room where Marty lies, having had two strokes. Rabbit is shocked and repelled by the man's grotesque appearance, utter helplessness, and inability to speak.

Feeling he has failed to communicate with Tothero, Rabbit hurriedly goes to see Janice. Now that the painkillers have worn off, she is angry with Rabbit for having deserted her, and they quarrel. Rabbit is exasperated to learn Janice doesn't know whether they still have an apartment; he was planning to live there with Nelson until she gets out of the hospital. He ridicules her, saying, "The trouble with you, kid, is you just don't give a damn." They watch TV in relative peace until the nurse takes Rabbit to see his daughter through a viewing window. Rabbit feels awe at her tiny perfection. He decides he wants to name her June and returns to Janice's room. She wants to name the baby Rebecca after her mother. They settle on Rebecca June.

Analysis

At the hospital Rabbit soothes his agitation as he often does by reminiscing about his golden past. This time it is about his girlfriend Mary Ann, whom he loved when he was at the height of his basketball stardom. Rabbit's parents told Eccles earlier Rabbit was completely changed for the worse when he returned from his army service—compulsory in the 1950s. The narrator reveals Mary Ann married another man while Rabbit was in serving Texas. Mary Ann's marriage no doubt goes a long way in explaining why Rabbit came home obsessed with sexual conquest.

Rabbit's unsettling encounter with Tothero hints at the fate that could one day be Rabbit's. Like Rabbit, Tothero was a serial adulterer. Although Tothero's image of himself and reputation did not suffer because of his actions, his wife's did. Now Tothero is literally helpless, at the mercy of the woman he mistreated and neglected for years. Rabbit senses she is unmoved by Tothero's grotesque condition and will be free when he dies. As if this weren't sinister enough, as Rabbit looks at Tothero, his grotesque physical form recedes, and Rabbit has an experience of direct perception of Tothero's soul. In Part 1, Chapter 4 Rabbit climbed Mt. Judge expecting a vision of the reality beneath the world of illusory appearances. His expectation was specifically that he would be able to see, from above, the dying soul of an old man. Nothing happened at the time, but now Rabbit has this experience. It is horrifying, however, because it is accompanied by the feeling he is trapped "inside Tothero's skull." Rabbit cannot actually handle the mystical experience he thought he wanted.

Sober and in pain, Janice no longer displays the unquestioning adoration Rabbit has craved since he had it from Miriam. She wants to express her anger, but Rabbit refuses to accept blame as he continues to defend himself. After yesterday's claim he didn't know why he left her, he can now think of several reasons, all of which place the blame on her. Not only was she a bad wife but when he went to get the car from her mother's house the day he left, she had parked on the wrong side of the road. Rabbit does not finish enunciating this thought because Janice's lack of interest—and perhaps his realization of sounding like a fool—stops him. Readers may recall in Part 1, Section 1, Rabbit's all-night car trip began as an attempt to get home without going through the town of Brewer, and he did not decide he was heading for the Gulf of Mexico until he had been driving for a while. It did not occur to Rabbit then to turn the car around and drive home the short way, but perhaps it occurs to him now.

Their dynamic spirals down until it is arrested, first by the television, and then by Rabbit seeing his daughter for the first time. Ironically, Rabbit now watches the TV with absorption in a frivolous game show, despite his earlier criticisms at Janice for her TV watching habit. He even indulges in a little unconscious bigotry, characterizing the person on the TV as Jewish because of the way they speak. Rabbit thus proves himself to be a reflection of the mindlessness and bigotry of the era, capable of condemning others in an instant but unable to see his own actions. But when he sees his daughter and conveys his excitement and pride, Janice believes he is committed to changing his ways. The section closes with harmony restored between husband and wife.

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