One of the central, if unspoken, themes of Rabbit Hole is blame. Although several of the characters insist Danny’s death was simply a horrible accident, the responsibility for it hovers over the proceedings. Izzy made a phone call that distracted Becca from watching her son. Howie left the gate to the fence unlocked. The dog ran out into the street prompting Danny to follow him. Most importantly, Jason drove the car that killed him. It could even be argued that Nat’s fight with Izzy prompted the phone call, rendering her culpable as well. In a sense, Lindsay-Abaire has created a world in which everyone can share the blame for Danny’s accident but no one is truly at fault. Fate becomes the killer, leaving the characters with all kinds of conflicting, awful feelings—but nowhere to direct them.
This notion of fate is closely bound to blame. In many ways, the conspiracy of elements that culminate in Danny’s death are evocative of Greek tragedy. Lindsay-Abaire reinforces this parallel in the lengthy debate about the Kennedys at Izzy’s birthday party. Nat rebukes the famous clan for being stupid and thinking of themselves as gods. Howie even ponders if what Nat is referring to is the Greek notion of hubris. Finally, Lindsay-Abaire has created an inversion of the Greek deus ex machina (or “god from machine,” wherein a tragic story might be resolved by the appearance by a god who was lowered onto the stage via a crane). In Rabbit Hole, the starting point of the play is a machine (Jason’s car) that complicates rather than resolves the issues in the play.
As a means of combating fate (or at least attempting to do so), Lindsay-Abaire presents science and technology as forces in this battle. Nat notes the failure of technology (i.e., the plane) in John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death. Howie’s primary means of reconnecting with his lost son is to...
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