Rabbit Hole Themes
The main themes in Rabbit Hole are blame, fate, and science and technology.
- Blame: Danny's death was an accident, yet Becca, Howie, Izzy, and Jason all worry about being to blame. Becca and Howie agree that they do not blame Jason, who inadvertently struck Danny with his car.
- Fate: The idea of fate is invoked by the events that led to Danny's death, which recall Greek tragedy, and by Nat's and Howie's references to the Kennedys' hubris.
- Science and technology: Science and technology are presented as failed means of controlling fate; however, science also offers Becca solace in the form of the theory of parallel universes.
Last Updated on March 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 512
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.
Science and Technology
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 watch a home video of him on his VCR. Most importantly, Jason introduces the idea of the rabbit hole as a connection to alternate realities (including one in which Danny might still be alive). It is important to note that it is the male characters in the play who invest in the idea of science and technology as a means to control the world around them. In addition to Nat’s dismissal, Becca erases the tape in which Howie is so invested (whether that erasure was accidental or purposeful remains ambiguous). The women in the play seem to recognize the futility of attempting to control fate.
The scientific theory of the multiverse and the rabbit hole is arguably the most important idea in the play. Although the concept is not fully explained until the end of the play, its influence can be felt throughout. Much of Becca’s ironic distance from the world around her stems from her disbelief that this is really her life. As she says near the end of the play, this is simply the sad version of their lives.