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Rabbit Tetralogy, The

Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit at Rest, ménage à trois

harry janice life runs

a sequence of novels by John Updike, comprising Rabbit Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981; Pulitzer Prize), and Rabbit at Rest (1990; Pulitzer Prize), which chronicles the life of Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom from his adolescence to middle age. In Rabbit Run, Harry rebels against the constraints of his society and impulsively flees from his domestic responsibilities (from his wife Janice and son Nelson) to indulge his sexual feelings for the one-time prostitute Ruth Leonard. Harry rejects his dreary job, selling the MagiPeel peeler, for the countryside and a new job as a gardener. Yet he is called back to Janice when she is in labour. A calamity occurs when Janice, while drunk, accidentally drowns their daughter Rebecca while Harry is away with another woman. After much anguish about who is guilty for Rebecca's death, a new predicament emerges when Harry discovers that Ruth is pregnant. Unable to face his obligations, ‘Rabbit’ is on the run again: ‘he runs. Ah: runs, Runs.’

Rabbit Redux is more overtly political. Set between July and October 1969, it refers to the Apollo moon shot, civil rights protests, the rise of ‘alternative’ culture, and Chappaquiddick, amongst other events. Now involved in the media as a linotyper, Harry lives his life by outdated rules and attempts to evade the news of Janice's adultery with the Greek salesman Stavros, but ultimately accepts their relationship. Harry meets the rich hippy Jill, who reshapes his sensual life, before she takes in a young Vietnam veteran, the black activist and fugitive Skeeter, whom Harry shelters. While this new relationship politicizes Harry's life, the neighbours become increasingly intolerant with the ménage à trois, and the house is burned down with Jill inside. In the fourth section, Rabbit's sister Mim arrives and organizes his reconciliation with Janice.

Rabbit Is Rich is about the 1970s, the American Dream of the 1950s and 1960s having now gone sour. At 46, Rabbit is a Toyota dealer, and happily married with Janice. A father–son tension develops with his son Nelson, now 22 and a college drop-out, who marries a secretary whom he has made pregnant, then abandons. Rabbit gradually realizes that he cannot escape to a transcendence, what he called ‘it’, recognizing that he is trapped in time and space. In Rabbit at Rest, Nelson returns to his wife and runs the car business, while Harry and Janice live in Florida. But with Nelson getting into trouble over drugs, Harry returns to rescue the car business, and in so doing revisits his old flames. Living the good life in the Reagan years, he is now suffering from heart attacks, and he eventually dies as he leaps to pitch a basketball.

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