Rabbit Redux Study Guide

Rabbit Redux

Rabbit Redux by John Updike

Rabbit Redux finds former high-school basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom working a dead-end job as a Linotype operator at the local printing plant. Thirty-six, he feels that he is quickly approaching middle age and irrelevance, a fear he sees reflected in the economic decline of his hometown, Brewer, Pennsylvania. When his wife leaves him for an eccentric Greek man named Charlie Stavros, Harry and his thirteen-year-old son are at a loss.

Seeking to fill the void left by Janice, Harry starts an erstwhile commune, composed of himself; Nelson; Skeeter, a cynical, drug-dealing African-American Vietnam vet with messianic delusions; and Jill, a wealthy, white, runaway teenager from Connecticut. While Skeeter keeps Jill in sexual thrall to him with heroin, Harry and Nelson are both drawn to Jill for the different things she represents to them: lost innocence and sexual conquest for Harry, and first love and coming of age for Nelson. Against the backdrop of the Summer of Love, Harry, Skeeter, and Jill do drugs, have sex, and debate religion, race relations, and other political issues of the 1960s while Nelson attempts to romance Jill. The activities at Harry's house upset his middle-class, conservative neighbors, one of whom sets fire to the house in an attempt to put an end to the commune. Jill, high on heroin, burns to death. Though Harry is initially disturbed, the nihilistic Skeeter convinces him to forget about it; Harry nonetheless worries about the effect it may have on Nelson.

Charlie suffers a heart attack while he and Janice are together, but she saves his life. The near death experience causes them to reevaluate their relationship and Janice returns to Harry. The Angstroms warily settle back into family life as they face the dawn of the 1970s.

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