John Updike's Rabbit Tetralogy: Mastered Irony in Motion

By Marshall Boswell | Go to book overview

Four
Rabbit at Rest
Repetition and Recapitulation

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be: and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is nothing new under the sun.—Ecclesiastes 1:9

Like its partner volumes, Rabbit at Rest, the final installment of John Updike's Rabbit tetralogy, can be read entirely on its own. Whatever background the reader needs to know Updike's narrator supplies in the form of flashbacks, subjective recollections, and, in several instances, some rather clumsy, almost soap-opera-like expository dialogue, wherein characters remind one another of things about which they really need no reminding. Nevertheless, such a reading, while adequate for all practical purposes, is ultimately incomplete. What such a reading fails to acknowledge is the novel's masterful orchestration of echoes and allusions from the previous books. Updike has constructed the novel almost entirely from motifs borrowed from the other three volumes, motifs which appear and reappear in unexpected juxtaposition with the contemporary milieu that functions as this novel's structural frame. The most ideal reading is the purview only of what Updike terms the book's “ideal reader, ” that is, the “fellow-American who had read and remembered the previous novels about Rabbit Angstrom” (ix). As someone who has followed Harry Angstrom through three former decades, this ideal reader will be able to appreciate the repetitions from those previous installments.

-186-

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John Updike's Rabbit Tetralogy: Mastered Irony in Motion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • A Note on the Texts xi
  • John Updike's Rabbit Tetralogy *
  • Introduction - Mastered Irony and the Mega-Novel 1
  • One - Kierkegaard, Updike, and the Zigzag of Angst 26
  • Two - The Doorway into Utter Confusion 76
  • Three - More Stately Mansions 130
  • Four - Repetition and Recapitulation 186
  • Conclusion - Inside America 231
  • Bibliography 241
  • Index 247
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