With the publication of Rabbit Is Rich in 1981, Harry Angstrom emerged at last as Updike’s most enduring and memorable fictional creation. Updike’s novels exhibit an enormous range, but the success of the third Rabbit novel, consistently on pitch, suggested to some critics that he is at his best when practicing the domestic realism that has also distinguished his finest short stories.
After the death of O’Hara in 1970, Updike remained perhaps the only committed chronicler of small-town America, notable like O’Hara for his short stories as well as for his novels. With Updike, however, the social chronicle gained an added dimension absent from the works of O’Hara, as from those of Sinclair Lewis before him. Updike, an accomplished poet and essayist as well, is a more conscious stylist than either of his predecessors, applying to the social chronicle the technique and polish of elevated literary art. The Rabbit Angstrom novels, in particular, are as notable for the way in which they are told as for the story which they tell.