The rival claims of freedom and responsibility are explored in Rabbit Redux from several different points of view. After twice deserting his wife in the earlier novel of the series, the title character is now trying to maintain a home in the face of increasing odds. This time his wife experiments with freedom by having an affair with a used car salesman. Harry learns about this at a bar where the television repeatedly shows Apollo 11 blasting off to the moon. Updike thus reveals the emptiness in the life of his chief character at the very moment that America is ready to explore a new world in space.
The drug-crazed young girl and the black veteran offer two more examples of the contest between freedom and responsibility. Both characters think of themselves as free from the rules of any conventional society. His experience in Vietnam has convinced the veteran that the entire American system is bankrupt. What he offers in its place is a mad vision of himself as a black Messiah. The young girl expects to find love and freedom by rejecting the materialism of her family, but instead she is sexually exploited and left to die in a burning house. Updike shows in Rabbit Redux how the quest for freedom can be mad and dangerous when responsibility is exchanged for a limbo of self indulgence and chaos.
(The entire section is 228 words.)