Revolutionary Road

by Richard Yates

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Student Question

How does John, the mathematician in Revolutionary Road, relate to Frank and April's inner conflicts? Is he April's fulfillment's proponent?

Quick answer:

In Revolutionary Road, John Givings is connected to the inner conflicts between April and Frank because he, too, struggles to break free from the mechanical, unfulfilling conformity of upper-middle class suburbia.

Expert Answers

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John Givings could be connected to the inner conflicts of April and Frank because he reflects their hesitancy to continue to conform to the expectations of upper-middle class suburbia.

While other characters are critical of their plans to move to Paris and escape their confining environment, John is an enthusiastic supporter. Here, the tension between conformity versus nonconformity becomes rather clear. John is on the side of nonconformity. He adamantly endorses the Wheelers’ choice to get out of the suburbs. When the Wheelers break the news that they won’t be moving to France, John is palpably critical. “Don’t people have babies in Europe?” he quips.

Indeed, John’s challenging relationship with the Wheelers draws out their inner conflict. It’s almost as if the Wheelers are constantly torn between siding with John (the side of nonconformity) and siding with John’s parents, the Campbells, and the others who continue to lead lives that aren’t fulfilling (the side of conformity). Without John around to highlight the Wheeler’s personal conflict, the personal conflict might be far less vivid and striking.

While the question labels John “deranged,” consider questioning that designation. It might be worthwhile to wonder if John really is “deranged,” or if his community has conveniently labeled him “deranged” to avoid grappling with their own deranged thinking.

A big part of the Wheelers’ inner conflict appears to be that they are aware of how mindless and meaningless their lives have become. Yet they seem to be incapable of putting their awareness into practice. This might be where John comes in. Unfortunately, the Wheelers end up aligning with the side of the conflict that John is not on.

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