In a January 5, 2017 post on The Guardian, writer Matt Lewis notes that “Rabbit, Run is about a rebel we all know; John Updike’s disappointed young man dreams of escaping a workaday existence in a way that’s still familiar nearly 60 years on.”
Updike famously intended Rabbit, Run as a “riposte to Jack Kerouac’s 1957 beatnik classic On the Road,” Lewis writes. “Rather than beating morality into his readers, Rabbit gives Updike a means to explore the urges that exist in everyone—however secretly.”
That’s the common part. But as Lewis observes, “Like James Joyce and DH Lawrence before him, Updike treats sex and sexuality with a frankness that was uncommon among his contemporaries. The descriptions of sex have retained their raw freshness. In an essay, David Foster Wallace named Updike one of three Great Male Narcissists in U.S. postwar fiction and said that friends had criticized Updike for being ‘just a penis with a thesaurus.’ But that feels grossly unfair when considering his early novels like this one.
“For all of the prose’s curlicues and self-conscious prettiness, there is undoubtedly meat on the bone. Through Rabbit, Updike confronts major topics in a minor way: unravelling the tapestry of the suburban American male psyche and reweaving it into beautiful images. On reading, we become like his protagonist: restless strivers yearning for something different and altogether bigger than ourselves.”