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The Case of Ribbit Run by John Updike

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Among all the challenged books I picked Rabbit Run written by John Updike. Rabbit Run mainly describes the life experiences of Harry Angstrom, with Rabbit as his nick name, to reveal the conditions of existence of ordinary Americans and the broad social background and features of the time. This book has been widely banned in USA and Europe when it was published because of its explicit description of sexual situations, feeling of negativity, encouragement of “irresponsible” lifestyles, and persuasion of narcissism. In my opinion, Rabbit Run is a novel that should be banned to children and young adults. Therefore, the book should not be accessible at elementary and high schools.

The main character in Rabbit Run is called Harry Angstrom. He was a basketball star in high school, but now he is a twenty-six married father who is tired of his marriage and life. Therefore, Harry made a decision to abandon his family and run away. However, he is lost on the way, and he finds his basketball coach, who introduces Harry to Ruth. Ruth is a part-time prostitute, but Harry still decides to move in with her and they begin a relationship at the cost of leaving his family and child behind.

The author of the book, John Updike, is one of the most influential writers in the history of American Literature. Rabbit Run is the first book in his famous Rabbit Tetralogy series, which contains four books in total. After Rabbit Run obtained the huge success, John Updike published the other three every ten years, including Rabbit Redux in 1971, Rabbit is Rich in 1981 and Rabbit at Rest in 1990. John Updike received his highest achievement because of Rabbit Tetralogy, and it makes him the most gifted and serious writer during his era.

The most obvious reason why this book should be banned to children and youth is that the book contains too much sexual situations. However, this is actually one of the important features of the Rabbit Tetralogy series. Like he mentioned in an interview with the Paris Review, “Domestic fierceness within the middle class, sex and death as riddles for the thinking animal …—these are some of the themes “(Updike). Therefore, many detailed description on sexual activities are expected in Rabbit Run, which is not suitable for children and young adults. Most description of sexual situations are necessary because they explain what the character think during different time periods and why he always “at running”. For example, the descriptions of two sexual scenes of Harry and Janice (his wife), which happened before and after they got married, reflect the truth that Harry really wants to escape from the boring and meaningless marriage life. They used to have wonderful moments, including sex, but all of them are ruined once they got married. That’s why Harry chooses to “run” and to pursue the real “satisfied” life. However, as a specific group of people, children are easily influenced and they cannot distinguish what is right or real and what is wrong or unreal, as they are immature, and they probably imitate what they have read. It is commonly believed that there is a definite link between violent movie and campus violence, and when it comes to the topic of sex, it is also true that books with too much description of sex will temp children to commit sex crime.

There are three different feelings of negativity from the book appearing in three different periods. Harry’s disappointment on his meaningless and miserable life at the beginning of the novel brings readers the negative emotion of frustration. Just like Harry, such negative feeling makes people lose confidence, dislike themselves and reduce the enthusiasm for life. Is this kind of attitude children and youth should be accepting and learning about? The negative emotion of regret can be seen from the middle part of the book. It is true that Harry did not want to be restricted by family and kids, and he preferred freedom. However, When Janice was at hospital giving his second baby, Harry felt sorry to his wife and children. He had regrets about cheating on his wife and abandoning his children. And even when he decided to abandon his family, he used to ask himself if it is right. He was under-pressure because such behaviour was unacceptable to the public and will be criticized by the society at that time. The negative emotion of sadness appears at the last part of the book when Harry’s little daughter is died. After Janice found his husband Harry “run” again, she was so depressed that she got drunk and accidently “kill” her daughter in the bath tub. Harry was totally crushed by the sad news, physically and mentally, and so as our readers. This kind of negative



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