Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 277
The protagonist of Rabbit Redux is a passive man in his mid-thirties. No longer does he live up to the nickname "Rabbit" left over from his high school days as a fast moving basketball player. Now he stays home to watch television while his wife and son go their different ways. Circumstances are so beyond his control — a dying mother, a teenage son, an unfaithful wife, and then a lost job — that the protagonist finds comfort in a stoical and passive retreat. Near the end of the novel he has moved back into his boyhood home and is wearing his old basketball jacket. Lacking any obvious sign of intelligence or passion, Harry Angstrom appears to be a born loser, and some critics have faulted Updike for writing such a long novel about a "quintessential anti-hero." It is true that Harry gives himself a low grade — "As a human being I'm about a C minus" — but he does learn from experiences in the novel. Harry may not travel to the moon and back like the astronauts on his television screen, but he does explore the empty landscape of a broken marriage and the failure of his dreams. Updike creates two other characters to shock and educate the protagonist. The angry veteran who claims to be a black Jesus is a reflection, however exaggerated, of the decade that fought against racial injustice and the war in Vietnam. The runaway girl is a flower child of the 1960s who masks her self-destructive yearning with shallow idealism. Updike's characters are thus rooted in a particular decade of American history, but their special combination of bitterness and vulnerability transcends time and place.