Reading, Pennsylvania

After a brief hiatus for which I apologize, we take to the road again today and find ourselves back in the United States and in a different century than most of our stops in the United Kingdom. Today, I will be leading you through Rabbit, Run by John Updike. It is the first novel we took in my Twentieth Century American Literature course, one of two literature courses in which I am currently enrolled. (This is my last week of classes!)

I do not want to give you a synopsis of Rabbit, Run. It may seem that this is out of laziness because the semester is ending, and I don’t want to do much of anything anymore, but actually, I simply despise the novel.

The main character is Harry Angstrom, nicknamed Rabbit, a 26-year old man with a wife, one child, and another on the way. He is dissatisfied with his life and the work he does selling the “Magi-Peeler.” Harry abandons his family to live with a prostitute at the beginning of the novel. Harry is running away from responsibility and the family that he feels is trapping him. However, he is also having a religious crisis, and the entire novel has characters who are in various states of struggling with their faith in God.

I feel as though my professor picked this novel as our first because he wanted to get the worst out of the way at the start. Reading could only get better after Rabbit, Run

I do not mean to say that the novel was poorly written. It certainly was not. John Updike is a talented writer, but I found the content of the novel disturbing. I don’t mind reading books that are sad or dark, but I don’t appreciate sexually explicit content. The last thing I wanted to read about was Rabbit’s sexual experiences with a prostitute. Nor did I want to read about them with his wife.  Sexuality is personal and private.

The revolting descriptions of sex coupled with Harry’s abandonment of a child and pregnant wife was upsetting enough, but Updike also included a scene towards the conclusion of a novel that almost made me vomit with revulsion and sadness. I will not describe that scene for you. It is too graphic and horrible to be shared in my blog. I simply warn you if you plan on reading this novel that you will most likely be disturbed and upset by it.

Would I recommend this novel? No. Absolutely not. I tried to justify the content at first, saying that this is an accurate reflection of that time in our nation’s history. Maybe it is. I, however, feel that it is possible to tell the stories of abandonment and religious crisis without including sexually explicit material. I also believe that it is possible to tell any story without any graphic descriptions of sex.

All I could hope for when I finished Rabbit, Run was that the next novel would be better. It was. Let us look forward to tomorrow.


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