How is food symbolically used in a scene in Rabbit at Rest?

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appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opening quote to the novel offers a warning that food may prove to be Rabbit's downfall: "Food to the indolent is poison, not sustenance." (Frederick Douglass) 

Before Rabbit has his final heart attack, he is on the run from his life yet again, after having an affair with his daughter-in-law and having this discovered by his wife. Rabbit heads to a diner and orders the fatty, salty food his doctor has warned him against eating. He feels a tightness in his chest, starts sweating, and feels his heart beating faster, but he keeps eating and seems determined not only to clean his plate, but to have another heart attack. Food has been a vehicle for comfort and denial throughout Rabbit's later years, and as he confronts the anger and hurt of his family and can discover no excuse for his behavior, he uses food as a catalyst to further endanger his health, perhaps to elicit pity and, ultimately, forgiveness. The comfort he derives from the food mirrors the comfort and escape he is trying to derive by including another heart attack. But his actions backfire and this self-induced coronary episode proves to be his last.

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Rabbit at Rest

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