Why is the play called Rabbit Hole?

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Grief, especially that into which one is subsumed as the result of a sudden, tragic development, is unsettling, to say the least. When that grief is the result of the loss of one’s four-year-old child in a sudden tragic accident, those grieving the child’s loss, especially the parents, are instantaneously...

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Grief, especially that into which one is subsumed as the result of a sudden, tragic development, is unsettling, to say the least. When that grief is the result of the loss of one’s four-year-old child in a sudden tragic accident, those grieving the child’s loss, especially the parents, are instantaneously yanked out of the stable existence they have known and thrust unwillingly into the unknown. In David Lindsay-Abaire’s tragicomic play Rabbit Hole, the main characters, Howie and Becca, are mourning the loss of Danny, their young child who was suddenly killed by a teenage driver. It is every parent’s nightmare.

Early in Lewis Carroll’s famous story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the main protagonist, a young bored girl, suddenly enters a disorienting, inexplicable world. Alice observes a white rabbit rush by and disappear into its hole, complaining along the way that it is going to be late. Curious, Alice decides to follow the rabbit. Carroll’s narrator describes the experience as follows:

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

In Lindsay-Abaire’s play, Becca and Howie, with emphasis on the former, has fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole. The sudden tragic loss of four-year-old Danny has thrown off her equilibrium and forced her emotional state into uncharted territory. This normally-emotionally-stable adult is grieving for her son while attempting to hold together the fragments of her life. That life includes a similarly grieving husband (whose life now revolves around video images of Danny) and a sister, Izzy, whose pregnancy serves throughout the play as a constant reminder to Becca of what she has lost.

Also, Becca and Izzy’s mother Nat assumes a significant presence in the play not least because of the emotional toll taken on her by the loss of her son, Becca’s brother, to drugs—a loss the consequence for Nat of which only gradually dawns on Becca.

David Lindsay-Abaire titled his play Rabbit Hole because his characters, Becca in particular, have disappeared into the strange new and very unsettling world of grief. Each decision these characters make, especially Becca, presents new obstacles and opportunities, just as in Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. The “very deep well” into which Alice falls after entering the rabbit hole serves as a metaphor for Becca’s sudden descent into a state of grief.

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