The main themes of Updike's work
John Updike (born 1932). American prose writer, poet, essayist and playwright, John Updike belongs to the post-war generation of US writers who came to literature with university degrees and solid philological training. The object of his image is the life of the intelligentsia, the "middle class" he knows well. Starting from the first works, for Updike, the motives of the slow but irreversible grinding of the personality, the decline and impoverishment of its spiritual potential, the crisis of faith, replaced by indifference or nihilism, have become typical.
Most often, these motifs correlate in his work with the image of the fate of the inhabitants who have achieved material prosperity, but are haunted by a vague sense of the aimlessness of their outwardly arranged life and seeking to diversify the emptiness of colorless everyday life through all sorts of surrogates (promiscuous love affairs, drugs, etc.) of intense, bright existence. The combination of bright satirical colors with a nostalgic tone, which is created by the author's undisguised sympathy for his characters (for him, they are primarily victims of the time, although the writer does not relieve them of responsibility for the precariousness of ethical concepts), helped Updike create a multifaceted picture of the life of the "average American" in 1950- 70s.
The social background in the novel is America in the late 50s. This is still a country that has not known either the formed "mass society", or the rebellious youth, or the "sexual revolution". The hero of the novel is the "average American", 26-year-old Harry Engstrom, nicknamed Rabbit, a specialist in advertising kitchen utensils. Once Rabbit Angstrom was a classy athlete, the "star" of school basketball. Now the exploits of his youth are forgotten, and he feels stuck on the sidelines.
The rabbit, a characteristic social type born of the "frightened fifties", is a significant artistic discovery of the writer. The father of the family, Rabbit, is vaguely dissatisfied with his life and sometimes goes on the run. Life is a family. Everything doesn't add up here. The wife turns out to be slovenly, clumsy, she drinks, even though a child is about to be born. All this is unbearable for Harry. He wants to run. The novel begins with this movement: to run. Gets into the car and drives away. It is impossible to endure this life, boredom. Knowing the purpose of one's actions is not available to Angstrom. His first outing seems completely irrational.
Rabbit has only one desire in his head - to get to the warm Gulf of Mexico, and then we'll see. It is only upon returning home that a more or less definite explanation of his craving for "escapes" emerges in his mind. The whole past dull life of a well-intentioned inhabitant appears to him as a sum of primitive reflexes, a pattern made up of superficial scratches that do not penetrate into the essence of being. . He wants happiness, joy, he cannot simply sacrifice himself. It also has a natural egoism of life, a thirst for joy and love. In addition, the whole life is heavy, depressing. All life is a sacrifice. This makes me want to run away. But then misfortune happens: a drunken wife drowned the child in the bath when she was bathing. And then he must return, returns to the family. Finally, he takes the next step. Return in it: there are also relatives, who treat him badly, life again, everything is completely unbearable. He's running again. Already without a car.
He runs, and it seems to him that he is running on faces. The earth is the faces he tramples on. He feels his existence as something that torments another. He can never get rid of it. He wants happiness, joy. He is between egoism and altruism, and no principle can prevail here. The center is the moral drama of man. The drama of the human personality, human existence in general: life requires self-sacrifice. The hero is terribly selfish, but immediately retreats. It is also a clash of the physical and spiritual in a person, moral and immoral. Forces torment a person from two sides.
Human life is a circle, a movement from one beginning to another. The Rabbit's flight is like going in circles with no hope of getting beyond the barrier erected by real circumstances. In the finale, the hero's "rebellion" ends with the return of the hero to the bosom of the family. Bringing his hero back to reality, Updike points out the futility of romanticized illusions.