Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

revolutionary-roadIn the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank’s job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble.

April and Frank could be any unhappily married couple living the “American Dream” in suburban America trying desperately to find happiness — together, apart, or both. Accidental children trap them in their unhappy life, and when April cooks up a plan for the Wheelers to escape to a posh life in Paris, it’s an accidental baby that traps them again. The story spirals down from there.

“You were too good and young and scared; you played right along with it, and that’s how the whole thing started. That’s how we both got committed to this enormous delusion — because that’s what it is, an enormous, obscene delusion — this idea that people have to resin from real life and ‘settle down’ when they have families. It’s the great sentimental life of the suburbs, and I’ve been making you subscribe to it all this time. I’ve been making you live by it!” (pg. 117)

It’s not to say that Revolutionary Road is average because of the fact that the story itself is depressing, rather it’s the characters that make it difficult to trudge through. The characters, both supporting and main, are oversimplified and it’s sometimes difficult to both get inside their heads and even like them. I took the oversimplification as a reflection of the 1950s culture and thus commentary on that stereotype, and I can see how controversial this book is as it takes the “American Dream” and points out all the cracks and flaws, but April and Frank are still difficult to like.

“What the hell kind of a life was this? What in God’s name was the point or the meaning or the purpose of a life like this?” (pg. 59)

Yates’ writing is wonderful and crafty and detail-oriented, but it’s also tempts you to skim through the novel to the end. Reading Revolutionary Road is like watching a train wreak — you want to look away but can’t.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Yates, Richard. Revolutionary Road. New York: Vintage, 2008. Originally published 1961. Print. 355 pgs. ISBN: 0307454622. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Vintage. Retrieved: April 13, 2009.

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