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The Rabbit series by John Updike covers the generational life of the Rabbit (Harry Angstrom) family through births, weddings, leisure (sports were pervasive in Rabbit’s life), arguments, divorces, and general angst of American middle class life, four novels in all. By describing in meticulous detail the highs and lows of every day, every incident, Updike hoped to exhaust the subject, de-mystifying and de-demonizing the family situation. After the first three novels (Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich) Updike was determined to finish the topic with Rabbit at Rest (critics said “Updike at Rest”), but did not want to have the character die (he has had a massive heart attack). As a character says in his Witches of Eastwick, "the cells of my body are getting impatient with me. They're bored with housing my spirit."
Like Bud Shulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run? or even Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, American authors like John Updike have taken as their theme the tensions and anxieties to American families, brought on by the pressures of the Free Enterprise System and by the frenzied pace of universal change. Rabbit at Rest might be called “The American middle-class family in retirement.” In response to questions about his themes, he said “There is a good deal to be said about almost anything. …My subject is the American small-town, Protestant middle-class. It is in middles that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly rules." The series of novels chronicles the social and international changes decade by decade. At rest, Rabbit sees no pattern, but does see that the world stumbles on, generation by generation—“no end of information.”
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