Course Hero. "Rabbit, Run Study Guide." Course Hero. 16 Mar. 2018. Web. 21 Jan. 2019. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Rabbit-Run/>.
Course Hero. (2018, March 16). Rabbit, Run Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Rabbit-Run/
(Course Hero, 2018)
Course Hero. "Rabbit, Run Study Guide." March 16, 2018. Accessed January 21, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Rabbit-Run/.
Course Hero, "Rabbit, Run Study Guide," March 16, 2018, accessed January 21, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Rabbit-Run/.
Following his first sexual encounter with Ruth Leonard in Part 1, Section 3, Rabbit has a symbolic dream which foreshadows the night's significance in all of their fates. The dream features a cake of ice that upsets the women in his dream. Rabbit recognizes this cake of ice as the same kind of ice produced by the local ice plant. The ice in the dream symbolizes Rabbit's unborn daughter, and the reactions of the women to the ice's presence foreshadow the emotional distress that Rabbit's infidelity and irresponsibility will cause in his real life.
The local ice plant is a prominent symbol in the novel of the automaticity and compulsion to engage in reproduction. Ice as a substance represents the "freezing" of the individual's freedom as a result of the responsibilities that reproduction brings. Rabbit's observation of the ice having a skin that overlays "hundreds of clear white veins like the capillaries on a leaf" and at its core a "jagged cloud, the star of an explosion, whose center is uncertain in refraction" terrifies him. This jagged cloud at the center suggests something exists beyond mere plant or animal biology alive in this ice and brings to mind the idea of a human soul or spirit.
That the ice represents a human life is further emphasized by the icebox it sits in, a metal-walled cave "mottled with the same disease the linoleum has." The icebox and the linoleum are ugly and diseased in the same way. This image brings to mind the idea the icebox is actually the womb of a woman with whom Rabbit shares a home, and he finds both the woman and the home repugnant. The obvious connection is to Janice, in her third trimester of pregnancy, and to the apartment whose ugly disorder he has just fled. When Janice's face starts melting, horrifying Rabbit, the death of their daughter Rebecca June in the novel's final section is foreshadowed.
In Part 1, Section 1, Rabbit takes a road trip, intending to reach the southern boundary of the country. Instead, he ends up spending the night driving in a confused circle, only to find himself back where he started the next morning. When first setting out, Rabbit stops at a gas station outside of Brewer and asks the attendant for a map. The attendant has no map, but he does question where Rabbit is going and how he intends to get there if he doesn't know his destination. Rabbit scoffs at the man's assertion, and later, when he finds himself headed back home, he blames the man not having a map for his failure to reach his destination.
Rabbit does buy a map later on in the trip, but instead of clarifying the way, its symbols and lines dissolve and merge so that Rabbit is unable to extract meaning from it. His reaction is to destroy it: "He claws at it and tears it; with a gasp of exasperation he rips away a great triangular piece." Once it is in pieces, Rabbit holds the torn map out the car window, and it "explodes, and the bent scraps like disembodied wings flicker back over the top of the car." Rabbit is on a quest for the thing he most values—the way he felt when he was a boy playing basketball—and wants a guide to show him the way. On the court he transcends ordinary reality and its limitations and steps into an altered state that feels more real than normal experience. Rabbit does not know how to get there or even what to call it, but he searches for it continually. The road trip and the map are Rabbit's first attempt to find it, by movement through space to some other part of the country. Rabbit's destructive retaliation against the map for failing to lead him to the object of his quest indicates his confusion and his tendency to blame externals for his own feelings and behavior.
Since childhood Rabbit has had meaningful encounters with the "cellar pit dug by some brave and monstrous settler centuries ago," which is hidden in the deep, thick forest atop Mt. Judge. These ruins symbolize the impermanence of human life and achievement, and Rabbit's response to them symbolizes the anxiety inherent in the human experience. Rabbit's experience on the top of Mt. Judge suggests to him that man is but a temporary manifestation of God-like consciousness within inert, unconscious matter. Gazing at the ruins like they are a mirror into his future, he experiences anxiety, knowing that all his efforts and strivings cannot prevent death from one day separating his consciousness from his body and leaving his body, and his works, to rot.
Rabbit addresses himself as he recalls the effect encountering these ruins had upon him when he was a child: "You become vividly frightened, as if this other sign of life will call attention to yourself." The place felt sinister to young Rabbit, who sensed its former human inhabitants had imbued it with a consciousness capable of watching and judging him, and his response was to run until he was "safe on the firm blacktop." Rabbit's childhood experiences of an unseen, conscious presence in the cellar and surrounding woods have influenced his worldview as an adult. In Section 5, he tells Jack Eccles as they play golf on the side of Mt. Judge, "I do feel ... that somewhere behind all this ... there's something that wants me to find it." The narrator confirms the importance of this idea in Section 9, noting many of Rabbit's "actions ... constitute transactions with" the "unseen world," which his instinct tells him lies within ordinary, visible reality.
In Section 3, when Rabbit senses Ruth dislikes him as they walk to her house to have sex for the first time, he tries to redeem himself by telling her about the cellar on the mountain. He tells her, "Once I came across an old house, just a hole in the ground with some stones, where I guess a pioneer had a farm." Ruth is unimpressed because Rabbit has failed to communicate the significance of his experiences there, and the subject is dropped as they start bickering. As the narrative progresses, however, Rabbit becomes increasingly attuned to his inward experiences of connection with an unseen presence. These experiences assume increasing importance as they lift him, temporarily, into a feeling of clarity and power that makes the frustrating mess of his outward life recede.
Just when he begins to feel his communion with this unseen realm frees him, like a god, from any claims or judgments the external world puts on him, Rabbit stumbles across the cellar in the woods again. His desire to encounter and understand "the thing behind everything" (Part 3, Section 11) is fulfilled, and Rabbit clearly sees the nature of his existence. His life is but "a spark struck in the collision of two opposed realms, an encounter a terrible God willed." His consciousness has arisen because God willed it out of "the blind tumble of matter," just as the homestead whose ruins he examines arose out of the unconscious forest, an expression of the conscious will of the pioneer who built it. And just as death has made ruins of this once-human place and its inhabitants, so will Rabbit's little spark be one day extinguished, his consciousness removed from this physical plane. This revelation makes Rabbit feel vulnerable and terrified. In horror he flees from the place as well as from what it has revealed to him.