Rabbit is Rich

By John Updike
Genre: Literary Fiction
Buy Now This book is on reading list for December 2011

Why We Like This Book

This question will be answered after our book club meets next Tuesday night.


This third novel of Updike’s Rabbit series examines the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a one-time high school basketball star, who has reached a paunchy middle-age without relocating from Brewer, Pennsylvania, the poor, fictional city of his birth. Harry and Janice, his wife of twenty-two years, live comfortably, having inherited her late father’s Toyota dealership. He is indeed rich, but Harry’s persistent problems — his wife’s drinking, his troubled son’s schemes, his libido, and spectres from his past — complicate life. Having achieved a lifestyle that would have embarrassed his working-class parents, Harry is not greedy, but neither is he ever quite satisfied. Harry has become somewhat enamored of a country-club friend’s young wife. He also has to deal with the indecision and irresponsibility of Nelson, his son, who is a student at Kent State. Throughout the book, Harry wonders about his former lover Ruth, and whether she had ever given birth to their child. (source: Wikipedia)

Discussion Questions

What does the title, Rabbit is Rich, suggest? In what way is Rabbit rich? Or is there a note of sarcasm here?

Is Harry Angstrom the typical American male? If Updike is building on a stereotype, then what does this character say about American men? What about his view of American women?

How would you characterize the Angstrom family? Do Harry and Janice have a strong marriage? Is this portrayal  a comment on middle-age malaise or just a portrait of one marriage?

What role does Nelson play in the family dynamic? How do you understand his relationships with women based on his involvement with Melanie and Pru?

Discuss Springer Motors and Harry’s role at the lot. What does his ‘professional’ life say about his work ethic? Why does he fight Nelson’s attempts to joining the family business? Is Harry a good father?

How does the Brewer community/country club set reflect the larger American values of that time? What social commentary is being made through the interactions of the couples (Webbs, Murketts and Harrisons? Why does the book end with their trip to the Caribbean?


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