The Doorway into Utter Confusion
Civilization only produces a greater variety of sensations in man—and absolutely nothing more. And through the development of this variety, man may even come to find enjoyment in bloodshed.
—Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
If the central thematic conflict of Rabbit, Run is freedom versus domesticity, then the corresponding conflict of Rabbit Redux is its more sociopolitical counterpart, revolution versus preservation. What was private in the first volume becomes public in its sequel, as Rabbit's quest for freedom's possibility gets taken up by the 1960s mass culture. “You know, ” Rabbit tells Charlie Stavros, Janice's lover and one of the novel's numerous swingers, “you're just like me, the way I used to be. Everybody now is like the way I used to be” (182/422). Used to be is the key, for in the intervening ten years Rabbit has radically changed, not so much with the times as in stubborn opposition to them. The restless proto-beatnik who, in Rabbit, Run, tries to rid himself of the deathevoking chains of middle-class Eisenhower-era husbandhood becomes, in Rabbit Redux, a staunchly conservative “family man” and “responsible citizen” of the lurid air-conditioned suburban landscape of the late 1960s. The world that Rabbit once knew has been turned upside down so completely that Updike, in order to maintain the dialectical equilib-