Name Date Course Section/# John Updike’s Portrayal of the “Everyman” of the American Middle-Class Many authors have attempted to engage the model of “everyman” and the middle-class throughout the course of the 20th century. Most notably, many of these authors have attempted to use these characters as a vehicle to describe, denote, and comment upon the actions that helped to define the ways in which the United States engaged on certain key cultural and ideological progressions…
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So successful was his original representation of Rabbit Angstrom in his 1960 that he published two subsequent novels that followed the development of his character in both the 1970’s and the 1980’s. These novels describe many themes and motifs that were, and to a large extent still are, experienced by middle-class America. Accordingly, this brief essay will analyze some of these themes by considering key progressions that manifested themselves within two of John Updike’s novels. The first of these novels, Rabbit, Run, deals with the dissatisfaction that hid very casually beneath the surface of late 1950’s America. The topic is hardly ever discussed due to the fact that the post war years have been so highly stylized and idealized that the reader would think that not a care in the world existed (besides perhaps the Soviets and the bomb). Yet, within this seeming idyllic world, Updike portrays the life of the middle class, via the character of Rabbit Angstrom, as one which is fundamentally dissatisfied by the superficial consumerism and fraudulence that the late 1950’s had on the society of that time (Edwards 13). ...
o the reader is one that engages the audience on a host of rather un-kosher topics (at least for the 1950s) with relation to abortion, prostitution, homosexuality, and even the topic of blow jobs. In this way, Updike is able to present to the reader, via the vehicle of Rabbit Angstrom, the frustration, confusion, despair, and ultimate desire for experience and sexual revolution that typified the generation of the late 1950s and early 1960s. As such, this representation was indicative of what would come to fruition during the 1960s and the cultural and sexual revolutions that re-defined the American landscape (Clasen 134). In this way, more than a running commentary on the factors that led to the growth and development of the American society during the period, Updike’s novel engages the reader with the understanding that fundamental dissatisfaction and unhappiness were the underlying reasons why the developments of the proceeding decades developed in the way they did. Similarly, the second book in the series, published in 1971 and named Rabbit Redux, follows the same character, Rabbit Angstrom, and develops upon he and his deteriorating personal life and relationships that it has spawned. Rather than relating that the liberation of the 1960s has brought Rabbit the comfort, meaning and solace that he so desired in the first novel, the author relates that Rabbits life is very much incomplete in much the same way it was in the first novel (Crowe 83). Rabbit is still working a dead-end job, still quite unfulfilled, and has recently had his wife leave him. However, such a situation is not indicative of the middle-class struggle that Americans of this particular era were going through. As a means to engage the reader on the struggles that the middle class experienced in
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Looking at A & P in this perspective enables us to see the bigger picture about how the story actually mirrors the consumer-based society which Americans live. With this, it is important to first devote our attention to the context of the story and then understand the symbolism behind each character to reveal the author’s intention to create an irony about living in a consumerist country.
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