Rabbit, Run, 1960

(Great Characters in Literature)

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a former high school basketball star. Now in his mid-twenties, he is married, is a father, and holds a mediocre sales job. Plagued by feelings of bore-dom and alienation, he abandons his pregnant wife for a quasi-religious quest whose goal he intuits but cannot define: “some-thing that wants me to find it.” At the funeral of his second child, he flees his wife, Janice Angstrom, for the third and, he believes, final time.

Janice Springer Angstrom

Janice Springer Angstrom, a middle-class housewife. Like her husband, she is in her mid-twenties, has average intelligence, and finds her life very boring. Her escape is alcohol. In drunken grief and postnatal depression, she allows her infant daughter, Rebecca, to drown in a bath.

Ruth Leonard

Ruth Leonard, a sometime prostitute. Also in her mid-twenties, she meets Rabbit shortly after he abandons Janice and allows him to move in with her because she appreciates his charm and mildness and the fact that he is searching. She informs Rabbit that she is pregnant with his child, and he leaves her.

Jack Eccles

Jack Eccles, an Episcopalian minister. He seeks to effect a reconciliation of the Angstroms marriage. His methods involve more psychology than theology, and he uses frequent golf games with Rabbit to make his persuasions.

Fritz Kruppenbach

Fritz Kruppenbach, a Lutheran minister. A stern man with a heavy German accent, he appears only once, in a crucial scene in which he lectures Jack Eccles and calls his counseling methods “Devil s work.”

Mrs. Horace Smith

Mrs. Horace Smith, an old widow. Mrs. Smith s eight acres of gardens become Rabbit s workplace, and she shows herself to be a quick-witted woman who takes a liking to Rabbit, telling him that he has the gift of life.

Nelson Angstrom

Nelson Angstrom, the son of Rabbit and Janice. Two-year-old Nelson excites frequent guilt in Rabbit. During Janice s maternity ward stay, Rabbit takes care of him.

Rabbit Redux, 1971

(Great Characters in Literature)

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, now a linotype operator for the Verity Press. Thirty-six years old and fat around the middle, he has become a conservative cynic, leery (but curious) about African Americans, a hawkish defender of the Vietnam War, and resigned to his humdrum life in the Brewer, Pennsylvania, suburb of Penn Villas. When his wife, Janice, moves in with her lover, Harry allows Jill, a white teenage runaway, and Skeeter, a black fugitive, to move in with him and his son. After neighbors burn down his house, killing Jill, Harry helps Skeeter escape and reconciles with Janice.

Janice Springer Angstrom

Janice Springer Angstrom, Harry s wife, who works at her father s Toyota dealership, Springer Motors. A short, dark-eyed woman hardened by life, she has aged well during the 1960 s and has acquired a stylish gypsy flair and a penchant for the latest slang. Lacking in self-confidence until her affair, she is, in her words, searching for a valid identity while harboring guilt about the death of her second child. The last time she sleeps with her lover, she saves his life.

Charles (Charlie) Stavros

Charles (Charlie) Stavros, a bachelor who works at Springer Motors and has an affair with Janice. A broad, hairy-shouldered Greek American with tinted glasses, a receding hairline, and prominent sideburns, he has had a heart murmur since childhood and harbors liberal political opinions. Janice finds him sensitive and caring, whereas Harry calls him a bleeding-heart peacenik. Not entirely comfortable with long-term commitments, he willingly succumbs to the charm of Harry s sister, Mim, precipitating the termination of his relationship with Janice.

Nelson Angstrom

Nelson Angstrom, Harry s thirteen-year-old son. A small, dark-complexioned, delicate, impressionable adolescent with Janice s stubby fingers and shoulder-length hair, he is wary of life s unpredictable turns but anxious to learn its secrets. He, too, indiscriminately picks up the latest slang words and finds in Jill a sisterly soul mate. He blames Harry for Jill s death.

Earl Angstrom

Earl Angstrom, Harry s father, who is close to retirement at Verity Press. A slim, thin-voiced, whiny codger with washed-out eyes and sour breath from a bad set of false teeth, he is a New Deal Democrat who admires Lyndon B. Johnson, Walt Disney, and the moon-walking astronauts. An opinionated meddler who enjoys an after-work beer...

(The entire section is 1041 words.)

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Brewer. Pennsylvania town in which the novels are centered. Updike’s fictionalized version of Reading, Pennsylvania, serves as the principal location for much of the action of the Rabbit novels. Rabbit’s family lives in and around the city, a manufacturing town whose glory days have passed by the time Rabbit reaches adulthood. Updike takes great pains to describe the cityscape in meticulous detail, allowing readers to develop a clear sense of the place that seems to Rabbit to be both a magnet and a trap: He is constantly drawn to the city as “home” and concurrently repelled by it, feeling as if he is unable to reach his full human potential as a result of his imprisonment in this middle-class community. As Rabbit grows older, however, he comes to accept the fact that he can survive in this city; perhaps this feeling is reinforced by his promotion within his father-in-law’s automobile dealership to a position that allows him to become modestly wealthy. Like so many middle-class Americans, however, as soon as Rabbit earns enough, he leaves the aging northeastern city for the land of eternal youth, Florida.

Mount Judge

Mount Judge. Suburb of Brewer in which Rabbit Angstrom and his wife, Janice, live in a tiny row house. Rabbit feels trapped here, and the novel describes the rooms and the streets outside as confining. While much of the action of the novel involves Rabbit fleeing his home, the symbolic significance of this location makes it essential to understanding the novel. Within the Angstrom home occurs one of the central ironic actions of the novel: the death by drowning of Rabbit and Janice’s baby daughter. Hence, the home is seen as a place not where life is fostered but rather where it is snuffed out prematurely.

Penn Villas

Penn Villas. The second home Rabbit and his wife own is a typical American suburban villa. Living in...

(The entire section is 787 words.)

Rabbit Is Rich, 1981

(Great Characters in Literature)

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, now the manager of the successful Springer Motors. Rabbit, gone heavy and soft in his mid-forties, lives with his wife, Janice, at the home of her mother, Bessie Springer, and marvels at the thirty-five hundred dollars that he earns each month in salary and profits at the dealership he began to run after the death of Janice s father, Fred Springer. His contentment is broken by the arrival at the agency of a young woman whom he suspects of being his daughter from his 1959 affair with Ruth Leonard and by the unexpected return home from Colorado of his son Nelson, a college student. Rabbit seeks to learn the girl s identity, while, at home, he tries to defend his safe position by lobbying for Nelson s departure.

Janice Springer Angstrom

Janice Springer Angstrom, Rabbit s wife. In her mid-forties, Janice has become a sassy and self-confident woman, seemingly more clever and more adaptable than Rabbit. Throughout this female-dominated plot, she is the center of power, because Rabbit knows that his prosperity depends on her. It is she who suggests firing Charlie Stavros, her former lover, to create a vacancy at Springer Motors.

Nelson Angstrom

Nelson Angstrom, now a college student at Kent State University. Nelson, bored and directionless at college, wishes to quit his studies and join the Springer Motors staff. He, like his father...

(The entire section is 546 words.)

Rabbit at Rest, 1990

(Great Characters in Literature)

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, now in semiretirement, spending half the year in Florida. He is overweight and cannot resist eating cholesterol-laden junk food. He has a heart attack, brought on by an attempt to rescue his granddaughter, Judy, during a boating accident. He is hospitalized and refuses a bypass operation. After a one-night sexual encounter with his daughter-in-law, he moves to his Florida condominium, where he lives a lonely life. He suffers a stroke while playing basketball with a boy he does not know. He is unable to communicate with family members when they arrive. He dies at the age of fifty-six.

Nelson Angstrom

Nelson Angstrom, who is embezzling from Springer Motors to support a cocaine habit. He agrees to enter a rehabilitation program, but not before Toyota withdraws its franchise. After rehabilitation, he intends to become a social worker, but he remains an unsympathetic character.

Janice Springer Angstrom

Janice Springer Angstrom, who attempts to blame Harry for Nelson s problems and leaves Nelson in charge of the auto dealership until it is too late. She and Nelson make decisions about the family business, leaving Harry out of the process. This is one of several ways in which the family prepares for life without Harry: Janice also occasionally talks about him in the past tense and takes courses in real estate.

Teresa “Pru” Lubell Angstrom

Teresa “Pru” Lubell Angstrom, Harry s daughter-in-law. She will not let her husband sleep with her, as punishment for his drug abuse. Harry, depressed and demoralized, finds himself alone with her one night and takes her to bed. Janice finds out and demands that he confront his family; instead, he flees to his Florida condominium.


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Boswell, Marshall. “The Black Jesus: Racism and Redemption in John Updike’s Rabbit Redux.Contemporary Literature 39 (Spring, 1998): 99-133. Boswell explores the ramifications of race in Updike’s Rabbit Redux. He argues that, in spite of the ambiguity of Updike’s portrayal, the novel does make a significant contribution to the continuing discussion about race in America.

DeBellis, Jack. “ The Aweful Power’: John Updike’s Use of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in Rabbit Redux.” Literature and Film Quarterly 21 (July, 1993): 209-217. DeBellis argues that Updike often...

(The entire section is 480 words.)