Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run

3.7 70
by John Updike

See All Formats & Editions

Rabbit, Run is the book that established John Updike as one of the major American novelists of his—or any other—generation. Its hero is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who on an impulse deserts his wife and son. He is twenty-six years old, a man-child caught in a struggle between instinct and


Rabbit, Run is the book that established John Updike as one of the major American novelists of his—or any other—generation. Its hero is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who on an impulse deserts his wife and son. He is twenty-six years old, a man-child caught in a struggle between instinct and thought, self and society, sexual gratification and family duty—even, in a sense, human hard-heartedness and divine Grace. Though his flight from home traces a zigzag of evasion, he holds to the faith that he is on the right path, an invisible line toward his own salvation as straight as a ruler’s edge.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Brilliant and poignant . . . By his compassion, clarity of insight, and crystal-bright prose, [John Updike] makes Rabbit’s sorrow his and our own.”—The Washington Post
“The power of the novel comes from a sense, not absolutely unworthy of Thomas Hardy, that the universe hangs over our fates like a great sullen hopeless sky. There is real pain in the book, and a touch of awe.”—Norman Mailer, Esquire
“A lacerating story of loss and of seeking, written in prose that is charged with emotion but is always held under impeccable control.”—Kansas City Star

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Rabbit , #1
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Rabbit, Run

By John Updike

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 1996 John Updike
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0449911659

Chapter One

Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it. Legs, shouts. The scrape and snap of Keds on loose alley pebbles seems to catapult their voices high into the moist March air blue above the wires. Rabbit Angstrom, coming up the alley in a business suit, stops and watches, though he's twenty-six and six three. So tall, he seems an unlikely rabbit, but the breadth of white face, the pallor of his blue irises, and a nervous flutter under his brief nose as he stabs a cigarette into his mouth partially explain the nickname, which was given to him when he too was a boy. He stands there thinking, the kids keep coming, they keep crowding you up.

His standing there makes the real boys feel strange. Eyeballs slide. They're doing this for themselves, not as a show for some adult walking around town in a double-breasted cocoa suit. It seems funny to them, an adult walking up the alley at all. Where's his car? The cigarette makes it more sinister still. Is this one of those going to offer them cigarettes or money to go out in back of the ice plant with him? They've heard of such things but are not too frightened; there are six of them and one of him.

The ball, rocketing off the crotch of the rim, leaps over the heads of the six and lands at the feet of the one. He catches it on the short bounce with a quickness that startles them. As they stare hushed he sights squinting through blue clouds of weed smoke, a suddenly dark silhouette like a smokestack against the afternoon spring sky, setting his feet with care, wiggling the ball with nervousness in front of his chest, one widespread white hand on top of the ball and the other underneath, jiggling it patiently to get some adjustment in air itself. The cuticle moons on his fingernails are big. Then the ball seems to ride up the right lapel of his coat and comes off his shoulder as his knees dip down, and it appears the ball will miss because though he shot from an angle the ball is not going toward the backboard. It was not aimed there. It drops into the circle of the rim, whipping the net with a ladylike whisper. "Hey!" he shouts in pride.

"Luck," one of the kids says.

"Skill," he answers, and asks, "Hey. O.K. if I play?"

There is no response, just puzzled silly looks swapped. Rabbit takes off his coat, folds it nicely, and rests it on a clean ashcan lid. Behind him the dungarees begin to scuffle again. He goes into the scrimmaging thick of them for the ball, flips it from two weak grubby-knuckled child's hands, has it in his own. That old stretched-leather feeling makes his whole body go taut, gives his arms wings. It feels like he's reaching down through years to touch this tautness. His arms lift of their own and the rubber ball floats toward the basket from the top of his head. It feels so right he blinks when the ball drops short, and for a second wonders if it went through the hoop without riffling the net. He asks, "Hey whose side am I on?"

In a wordless shuffle two boys are delegated to be his. They stand the other four. Though from the start Rabbit handicaps himself by staying ten feet out from the basket, it is still unfair. Nobody bothers to keep score. The surly silence bothers him. The kids call monosyllables to each other but to him they don't dare a word. As the game goes on he can feel them at his legs, getting hot and mad, trying to trip him, but their tongues are still held. He doesn't want this respect, he wants to tell them there's nothing to getting old, it takes nothing. In ten minutes another boy goes to the other side, so it's just Rabbit Angstrom and one kid standing five. This boy, still midget but already diffident with a kind of rangy ease, is the best of the six; he wears a knitted cap with a green pompon well down over his ears and level with his eyebrows, giving his head a cretinous look. He's a natural. The way he moves sideways without taking any steps, gliding on a blessing: you can tell. The way he waits before he moves. With luck he'll become in time a crack athlete in the high school; Rabbit knows the way. You climb up through the little grades and then get to the top and everybody cheers; with the sweat in your eyebrows you can't see very well and the noise swirls around you and lifts you up, and then you're out, not forgotten at first, just out, and it feels good and cool and free. You're out, and sort of melt, and keep lifting, until you become like to these kids just one more piece of the sky of adults that hangs over them in the town, a piece that for some queer reason has clouded and visited them. They've not forgotten him: worse, they never heard of him. Yet in his time Rabbit was famous through the county; in basketball in his junior year he set a B-league scoring record that in his senior year he broke with a record that was not broken until four years later, that is, four years ago.

He sinks shots one-handed, two-handed, underhanded, flat-footed, and out of the pivot, jump, and set. Flat and soft the ball lifts. That his touch still lives in his hands elates him. He feels liberated from long gloom. But his body is weighty and his breath grows short. It annoys him, that he gets winded. When the five kids not on his side begin to groan and act lazy, and a kid he accidentally knocks down gets up with a blurred face and walks away, Rabbit quits readily. "O.K.," he says. "The old man's going. Three cheers."

To the boy on his side, the pompon, he adds, "So long, ace." He feels grateful to the boy, who continued to watch him with disinterested admiration after the others grew sullen. Naturals know. It's all in how it feels.

Rabbit picks up his folded coat and carries it in one hand like a letter as he runs. Up the alley. Past the deserted ice plant with its rotting wooden skids on the fallen loading porch. Ashcans, garage doors, fences of chicken-wire caging crisscrossing stalks of dead flowers. The month is March. Love makes the air light. Things start anew; Rabbit tastes through sour aftersmoke the fresh chance in the air, plucks the pack of cigarettes from his bobbling shirt pocket, and without breaking stride cans it in somebody's open barrel. His upper lip nibbles back from his teeth in self-pleasure. His big suede shoes skim in thumps above the skittering litter of alley gravel.

Running. At the end of this block of the alley he turns up a street, Wilbur Street in the town of Mt. Judge, suburb of the city of Brewer, fifth largest city in Pennsylvania. Running uphill. Past a block of big homes, small fortresses of cement and brick inset with doorways of stained and beveled glass and windows of potted plants; and then half the way up another block, which holds a development built all at once in the thirties. The frame homes climb the hill like a single staircase. The space of six feet or so that each double house rises above its neighbor contains two wan windows, wide-spaced like the eyes of an animal, and is covered with composition shingling varying in color from bruise to dung. The fronts are scabby clapboards, once white. There are a dozen three-story homes, and each has two doors. The seventh door is his. The wood steps up to it are worn; under them there is a cubbyhole of dirt where a lost toy molders. A plastic clown. He's seen it there all winter but he always thought some kid would be coming back for it.

Rabbit pauses in the sunless vestibule, panting. Overhead, a daytime bulb burns dustily. Three tin mailboxes hang empty above a brown radiator. His downstairs neighbor's door across the hall is shut like a hurt face. There is that smell which is always the same but that he can never identify; sometimes it seems cabbage cooking, sometimes the furnace's rusty breath, sometimes something soft decaying in the walls. He climbs the stairs to his home, the top floor.

The door is locked. In fitting the little key into the lock his hand trembles, pulsing with unusual exertion, and the metal scratches. But when he opens the door he sees his wife sitting in an armchair with an Old-fashioned, watching television turned down low.

"You're here," he says. "What's the door locked for?"

She looks to one side of him with vague dark eyes reddened by the friction of watching. "It just locked itself."

"Just locked itself," he repeats, but bends down to kiss her glossy forehead nevertheless. She is a small woman whose skin tends toward olive and looks tight, as if something swelling inside is straining against her littleness. Just yesterday, it seems to him, she stopped being pretty. With the addition of two short wrinkles at the corners, her mouth has become greedy; and her hair has thinned, so he keeps thinking of her skull under it. These tiny advances into age have occurred imperceptibly, so it seems just possible that tomorrow they'll be gone and she'll be his girl again. He makes a stab at kidding her into it. "Whaddeya afraid of? Whodeya think's gonna come in that door? Errol Flynn?"

She doesn't answer. Carefully he unfolds his coat and goes to the closet with it and takes out a wire hanger. The closet is in the living-room and the door only opens half-way, since the television set is in front of it. He is careful not to kick the wire, which is plugged into a socket on the other side of the door. One time Janice, who is especially clumsy when pregnant or drunk, got the wire wrapped around her foot and nearly pulled the set, a hundred and forty-nine dollars, down smash on the floor. Luckily he got to it while it was still rocking in the metal cradle and before Janice began kicking out in one of her panics. What made her get that way? What was she afraid of? An order-loving man, he deftly inserts the corners of the hanger into the armholes of the coat and with his long reach hangs it on the painted pipe with his other clothes. He wonders if he should remove the Demonstrator badge from the lapel but decides he will wear the same suit tomorrow. He has only two, not counting a dark blue that is too hot for this time of year. He presses the door shut and it clicks but then swings open again an inch or two. Locked doors. It rankles: his hand trembling in the lock like some old wreck and her sitting in here listening to the scratching.

He turns and asks her, "If you're home where's the car? It's not out front."

"It's in front of my mother's. You're in my way."

"In front of your mother's? That's terrific. That's just the frigging place for it."

"What's brought this on?"

"Brought what on?" He moves out of her line of vision and stands to one side.

She is watching a group of children called Mouseketeers perform a musical number in which Darlene is a flower girl in Paris and Cubby is a cop and that smirky squeaky tall kid is a romantic artist. He and Darlene and Cubby and Karen (dressed as an old French lady whom Cubby as 2 cop helps across the street) dance. Then the commercial shows the seven segments of a Tootsie Roll coming out of the wrapper and turning into the seven letters of "Tootsie." They, too, sing and dance. Still singing, they climb back into the wrapper. It echoes like an echo chamber. Son of a bitch: cute. He's seen it fifty times and this time it turns his stomach. His heart is still throbbing; his throat feels narrow.

Janice asks, "Harry, do you have a cigarette? I'm out."

"Hub? On the way home I threw my pack into a garbage can. I'm giving it up." He wonders how anybody could think of smoking, with his stomach on edge the way it is.

Janice looks at him at last. "You threw it into a garbage can! Holy Mo. You don't drink, now you don't smoke. What are you doing, becoming a saint?"


The big Mouseketeer has appeared, Jimmie, a grown man who wears circular black ears. Rabbit watches him attentively; he respects him. He expects to learn something from him helpful in his own line of work, which is demonstrating a kitchen gadget in several five-and-dime stores around Brewer. He's had the job for four weeks. "Proverbs, proverbs, they're so true," Jimmie sings, strumming his Mouseguitar, "proverbs tell us what to do; proverbs help us all to bee--better--Mouse-ke-teers."

Jimmie sets aside his smile and guitar and says straight out through the glass, "Know Thyself, a wise old Greek once said. Know Thyself. Now what does this mean, boys and girls? It means, be what you are. Don't try to be Sally or Johnny or Fred next door; be yourself. God doesn't want a tree to be a waterfall, or a flower to be a stone. God gives to each one of us a special talent." Janice and Rabbit become unnaturally still; both are Christians. God's name makes them feel guilty. "God wants some of us to become scientists, some of us to become artists, some of us to become firemen and doctors and trapeze artists. And He gives to each of us the special talents to become these things, provided we work to develop them. We must work, boys and girls. So: Know Thyself. Learn to understand your talents, and then work to develop them. That's the way to be happy." He pinches his mouth together and winks.

That was good. Rabbit tries it, pinching the mouth together and then the wink, getting the audience out front with you against some enemy behind, Walt Disney or the MagiPeel Peeler Company, admitting it's all a fraud but, what the hell, making it likable. We're all in it together. Fraud makes the world go round. The base of our economy. Vitaconomy, the modern housewife's password, the one-word expression for economizing vitamins by the MagiPeel Method.

Janice gets up and turns off the set when the six-o'clock news tries to come on. The little hard star left by the current slowly dies.


Excerpted from Rabbit, Run by John Updike Copyright © 1996 by John Updike. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Brilliant and poignant . . . By his compassion, clarity of insight, and crystal-bright prose, [John Updike] makes Rabbit’s sorrow his and our own.”—The Washington Post
“The power of the novel comes from a sense, not absolutely unworthy of Thomas Hardy, that the universe hangs over our fates like a great sullen hopeless sky. There is real pain in the book, and a touch of awe.”—Norman Mailer, Esquire
“A lacerating story of loss and of seeking, written in prose that is charged with emotion but is always held under impeccable control.”—Kansas City Star

Meet the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania.  He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and from 1957 he lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of fifty-odd books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In 2006, Updike was given the Rea Award for the Short Story, and his Early Stories 1953-1975 received the 2003 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.  He died in January 2009.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 18, 1932
Date of Death:
January 27, 2009
Place of Birth:
Shillington, Pennsylvania
Place of Death:
Beverly Farms, MA
A.B. in English, Harvard University, 1954; also studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Rabbit, Run 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom was the star of his basketball team. He had everything for him back then. Now, he is married to a woman who does nothing but sit on her couch and smoke cigarettes while she is pregnant. Harry is sick and tired of coming home to his unsatisfied home life. He decides to leave his wife and his son, Nelson. So, he hops into his car and starts to drive out of town. He keeps driving and driving until he meets up with his old basketball coach, Tothero. Tothero introduces him to Ruth. Rabbit finds Ruth to be attractive and not long after, Rabbit becomes her roommate. Rabbit finds that he is most happiest with Ruth. This all has to change when his wife goes into labor with his daughter. After he sees his new daughter, his son, and his wife, he decides that he should stay with his family. Things were going good at home with the new baby, until he realizes that his home life will always be unsatisfactory. What does he do about this? You guessed right, he leaves. A tragedy happens which will bring him back to his family, but Rabbit runs away, again. This time Rabbit is reunited Ruth. Should he stay with Ruth or should he go back to his wife? Rabbit, Run was a not too good book and not too bad book. I felt that this book was not as exciting. It did not have very many interesting parts.Most parts of the book I had to read quick through because it just was, well boring. I do have to say that I liked the way the author threw in some tragedy. Not a lot of authors like to add tragedies, but Updike was not afraid. I could feel the way Rabbit felt during this whole tragedy. Updike did a good job in writing that part in such a melancholy way. I also liked the way Updike ended the book. Updike ended the book with Rabbit doing what he does best, running away from his problems.
NathanDPhillips More than 1 year ago
Updike is a tricky sonofagun. I put this book down twice because I couldn't hate anyone more than Rabbit (this is uncommon, for I can usually overlook my hate in favor of good prose).  In my third try, I forced myself to continue on and I'm quite glad I did. At the beginning Rabbit is the most detestable creature you've ever seen. At the end you, or at least I, weep with tears of agony and love for these characters.  Updike knew what he was doing all along. One might even feel a bit outsmarted by him.   Truly, read this book. The prose alone is worth it, but if you have patience, you will experience a beautiful, haunting story of love and life. I cannot wait to get started with Redux.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have you ever seen a waitress drop an entire tray of ready-to-eat meals ¿ cheeks glowing a vibrant rosy hue ¿ and ended up smiling in spite of yourself? Most people seem to take pleasure in hearing of other¿s misfortunes and sorrows¿an emotion that is best described in the German language as schadenfreude: laughing at the misfortune of others. Rabbit, Run by John Updike not only captures that very principle, but contorts it in a way nearly unprecedented by other literary works. Readers experience the pain of the foremost character, Rabbit Angstrom, with such severity that the book will be a difficult one to put down while unknowingly being coaxed over by the language Updike so masterfully wields. Critics claim that the novel contains flawlessly executed plot advancements alongside intricate wording that flows with such elegance. This beautiful composition of words and images accents the already florescent plot with perfect mental pictures and matchless emotions within each character. Even the simplest of tasks is fascinating enough to provoke thought. ¿With raw sudsy hands Mrs. Angstrom has set about heating coffee for her husband. This small act of service seems to bring her into harmony with him they begin, in the sudden way of old couples apparently at odds, to speak as one¿ (Updike 140). The overall concept of trying to find oneself is so thought-provoking that the novel may take twice the time to read wandering minds cannot seem to take the focus from their own ironically paralleled lives. Rabbit is a character running from life, an action that many people contemplate, but succumb to doing so in a strictly representational manner. He is in a constant search for nothing in particular, and this is what is so drawing about his story. Even though you¿ll find out how pessimistic he is, disliking Rabbit becomes a chore in harmony with Updike¿s in-depth descriptions of his thoughts. Updike¿s novel of forever seeking the unknown is an indescribable story that needs to be experienced to be understood. Through studying his writing style and analyzing the basic plot, Rabbit, Run illustrates Updike¿s own search of the unidentified. However, the true understanding comes from within oneself as they experience this critically acclaimed author¿s tale of hopeful searching. Deep, emotion-filled descriptions of internal trauma turn this everyday tale of longing for true satisfaction into the must-read novel that it stands as now. While I highly doubt you¿ll laugh at Rabbit¿s misfortunes, you are guaranteed to be amused.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While John Updike is a very good author and I like many of his works, I did not enjoy 'Rabbit Run'. The plot is overly drawn out and the characters are static. Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, the protagonist, can not overcome is selfishness and runs from every situation that is not beneficial to his postion in life. The secondary characters also do not contribute to moving the plot forward and tend to complicate the plot further
Guest More than 1 year ago
Updike is so skillful in making us love and hate every single character in the book - you see two sides to everyone, and yet don't realize it until later when you're trying to assess who is right and who is wrong, who is better... Life is hard, and at times running seems to be the best alternative. For Rabbit, there seemed no way of escaping the suburban way of life. At times it seems selfish, but you'd feel suffocated if you didn't try going for something better, too. Initially, you sympathize with Rabbit, because you feel as suffocated as he does...and then you realize that everyone is being suffocated by one thing or another, or in most cases by someone. You feel like taking that ride and seeing where it will lead you, like Harry does in the beginning. You just want to feel a bit of freedom. I think the book is great, and can't wait to read the rest in the series. 'Rabbit, Run' is truly the great American novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Our book club read this book recently. I had hoped Updike would be a real treat, but this was one boring book. Not one character with whom you could identify. If an entire town was this dysfunctional, it would fade away. Don't think I want to read the other Updike books of the "rabbit" series. Not recommended for new mothers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the book, Rabbit Run, Harry Angstrom runs away from his home. He runs away from an alcoholic wife, a simple job in the sales world, a young boy, and his soon to be daughter. Rabbit (Harry) is searching for his childhood life; he wants to go back to the days when he was the high school jock, and the star of the basketball team. Thinking that finding his old basketball coach will help him, he goes in search of Mr. Tothero. Tothero introduces him to a couple of friends, Margaret and Ruth, and by the end of the night Rabbit and Ruth become roommates. Rabbit seems to be happy until his wife, Janice, goes into labor and forces rabbit to leave Ruth and rush to the hospital. Throughout the rest of the book, Rabbit fights with the desire to return to Ruth, and the obligation he feels he has to Janice and their two children. The novel ends in such a dramatic way that you can¿t wait to begin reading the second book in the series. John Updike did a terrific job in creating the realistic fictional novel. The novel was easy to read, and just interesting enough to keep you into it. Updike uses simple vocabulary and his sentence structure is easy to follow. At some points the plot and descriptions John Updike chose were weak and a little dry, but overall the book was enjoyable. Hooray for Updike!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In John Updike¿s Rabbit, Run he reveals the stunning reality that is life. What happens to us during our high school years does not determine the rest of our lives. Harry Angstrom, the main character of the novel, was one of the best basketball players his school had ever seen. He was the popular kid in school everyone loved, and everything seemed so clear. Now he has run away from his wife and the fog has begun to set in. He begins to live his life with no responsibility for any of his actions. Updike does a wonderful job of painting the picture of Harry¿s life. He captures what a real dysfunctional family looks like. With the use of an extensive vocabulary Updike captivates every last detail in a scene. He describes every character¿s emotions and reactions to one another and he causes us to begin to have our own emotions and reactions towards the characters. Harry¿s life is not a happy or a sad one because there are so many different viewpoints to look from. He may seem happy now, but what happens when he gets bored with where he is? This book is a good to read, although it would be best if read by an experienced reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harry 'Rabbit' leaves his alcoholic pregnant wife, Janice and their child. I liked the book. It was very well written. I found that Updike kept the story moving making you want to see what would happen next. It's very true to real life, which is a scary thought! I can relate to the story easily. I thought both Rabbit and Janice were both very childish, irresponsible people which causes a horrible tragedy. It would have been nice if Rabbit or Janice learned something from their mistakes. Rabbit as a nickname for Harry is a good play on words.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Acts like a big mouth that won't shutup!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wail louder.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jumped around 'im almost 6 moons!!' She called
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kits that need RPing?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stirred but stayed unconcious
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bit Baileyleaf.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Prounces on it sqashing it flat then eats it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chased her tail
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm back!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She layed on her back, watching the sky
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will be your deputy if you and your cats join Montanaclan at sanna res one thanks for the offer love shadowwolf