I re-read Rabbit Run shortly after watching the “In Depth” interview. I finished it this time, but still didn’t like it. I guess I can understand how it could have been “shocking” or “groundbreaking” when introduced to the Leave-It-To-Beaver readers of 1960. I was thinking at times that maybe it was a genius experiment to see whether you can sympathize with someone who is completely unsympathetic. A test of the reader’s own humanity. And while I found that conundrum “original” in a sense and interesting, I think I was contaminated by what I heard during the interview, because Updike said he identified with the Rabbit character; so it’s hard to believe that this was his intention. People talk about the problems for these high school warrior athletes who are so popular, and peak at 18, and then spend the rest of their lives in regret, because they cannot recapture the Glory Days. But this seemed to me to be actually a minor part of the book. Is he a symbol for everyone who is “trapped” in the Leave-It-To-Beaver existence? Should everyone Run! Or feel sorry for those who do? This guy is just a flake. What about the women? Aren’t they just as trapped? At least. Why don’t they Run! from Rabbit?
I do admit, on the other hand, that there is something here. There is someone who, in some sense, you are tempted to feel sorry for, but there really isn’t any “reason” for you to feel sorry for him. There is no “explanation” or triggering event. There’s not a “tragic flaw” in an otherwise noble man. Which makes it seem not about him, in particular, but about the entire human condition. It’s almost as if he’s saying: We don’t have any excuses for who we are. We are who we are because that’s the way God made us. That’s the excuse. We’re trapped. We want to run. We “should” run, perhaps. It’s okay to run. Don’t blame us. And don’t blame us if we don’t. There is no right or wrong. We are who we are.
Which I guess makes you think.
But I just don’t believe that.