A Look Back at Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
The third Rabbit book by John Updike does not disappoint. While Rabbit Run and Rabbit Redux are captivating renditions of an ordinary man in ordinary surroundings who strays into hedonism, Rabbit is Rich brings unprecedented depth to the protagonist.
Rabbit—The Wealthy but Simple Man
Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is an American man born and raised in Brewer, Pennsylvania. Rabbit was a basketball star in high school, but then started a career, got married, and became a father. He has a troubled relationship with his 23-year-old son, Nelson, who brings a girl back from college and leaves another pregnant one behind. The apple seems to fall not too far from the tree as Rabbit perceives Nelson to be pathetic, spoiled, distasteful.
Rabbit becomes increasingly bored with everything—his job, his wife, and his life. He feels trapped in a mid-life crisis as he finds himself in his late 40s slipping down a self-inflicted rabbit hole of compulsive thought. He spends time contemplating God and death and grows increasingly dissatisfied with life despite running a successful car sales business, playing golf, and drinking gin at the country club. It forces the reader to begin wondering about the extent of Rabbit’s greed in his elusive quest to pursue excitement or regain his youth.
Despite being published in the 1980s and describing the social condition of the eastern United States at the time, Rabbit is Rich remains relevant decade after decade. Regardless of the era in which you live, marriages have their ups and downs, actions have repercussions, and people inevitably experience tragedy, joy, and despair. The raunchiness may also add some spice to the writing for some. Updike skillfully writes a work that makes the reader feel conflicted about the main character, which is no simple task. With sensitive literary craftsmanship, Updike has carved his place in the ranks of great American authors, and Rabbit is Rich was no exception.