Rabbit, Run

Techniques of Characterization in John Updike's 'Rabbit, Run'

When Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom returns to Brewer to seek the help of his old high school basketball coach Marty Tothero in John Updike's 'Rabbit Run,' a third-person narrator establishes the scene "Rabbit glances up hopefully at the third-story windows but no light shows" before we are introduced to Tothero via free indirect discourse and are made privy to Rabbit's thoughts without being placed explicitly inside his head: "Tothero, if he is in there, is still asleep"; this is Rabbit's assumption. Tothero is only hinted at, and is initially characterized as an abstraction. Moreover, greater emphasis is placed on the importance of Rabbit's need to meet with Tothero than on the importance of establishing Tothero as an individual person "[Rabbit] doesn't want to sleep so heavily he will miss Tothero when he comes out. ...He must not miss Tothero." Tothero's character is therefore established first by his relationship to Rabbit, before Rabbit even meets with Tothero himself.

That Tothero is Rabbit's old teacher is not evident until, once again via free indirect discourse, the observation is made that "[Tothero] has the disciplinarian's trick of waiting a...

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