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Buzz Book Club: Revolutionary Road, Section Three

Round Three, fellow Buzz Book Club readers! This third section of the March book club selection, Revolutionary Road, was longer than the others have been, so we have much to discuss after the jump.

If you're new to the Book Club, this is how it goes: every week I'll suggest chapters to complete by the next post (which, in this case, will go up every Friday in March). In these weekly Book Club posts, I'll posit a few questions to prompt discussion in the comments section.

Of course, you are always welcome to read beyond the weekly chapters, but please don't spoil anything in the comments! After the jump you'll find some questions that struck me as I read this section.

The next assignment: Finish the book! Next week I'll post our final Revolutionary Road discussion post and announce the title of our next book club selection.

To discuss the second section of Revolutionary Road (in which we read to the end of Part Two, Chapter 6),


  1. April and Frank go to such lengths to manipulate each other's perception of their gender roles. April wants to get to Paris, but feels the need to convince Frank that it's all for him and that, as the good wife, she's willing to go to work to support the family. Do we believe this? Or is she just supporting Frank's idea of what a man and a woman should be like when she truly wishes to work?
  2. What does Paris represent for Frank and April? What did the East Coast represent for Shep? Are those two things related, and what do all the escapism fantasies in the book really mean?
  3. Does Frank want to "find himself" or does he really just want to be appreciated? Would accepting the promotion be resigning himself to a life he doesn't really want, and if so, why would he consider it? Does he really want to "excel at crap like that" (p. 126) despite protestations otherwise? What does that say about the nature of work and his relationship with it?
  4. What's up with Mrs Givings? She's another one of the Wheeler foils we meet in this section, and as such, what part of their lives is she reflecting? Her breakdown scene really struck me because it was so sudden — does she represent the suburban lie that everything is really just fine?
  5. Then there's her husband. If anyone's pretending suburban life is just fine, it's him turning his hearing aid off. Is this perhaps the key to surviving this world? Is he maybe the happiest, and most well-adjusted character because he is able to tune it all out?
  6. Finally, it's interesting that the Givings' son John is so creepy and mentally disturbed; clearly he is supposed to represent something. Is his ugliness and crudeness like a cautionary tale? It's all autumn leaves and glossy appliances on the outside, but maybe John represents the ugly truth about what's going on deep down inside the American suburban soul.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
I keep on falling behind on my reading this month. Eep. The part where the Wheelers meet John was particularly interesting to me. It's never explained why John quite ended up the way he did, but I believe it must be because he saw the world as being tremendously flawed and either he had a hard time fitting in or he was just simply fed up with it all. April didn't mind the fact that she (and Frank) seemed to share the same world view as a "crazy" person, but it sure didn't sit well with Frank.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
One of my favorite passages in this section was written about Shep, but I think it applies to April, Frank, and Mrs. Givings as well: "...he rapidly began to see himself as an impostor and a fool. All at once it seemed that the high adventure of pretending to be something that he was not had led him into a way of life he didn't want and couldn't stand." Shep, April and Frank are especially discontent with what they have; they are full of self doubt that causes them to want to run away from the realities of the lives they have constructed for themselves (or that have been constructed for them, depending on who is telling the story.) For April, Paris represents escape, another opportunity to find happiness, a chance to convince herself and others that she is not stuck in the routine of the suburbs, that she is better than what she has become. She claims to be doing this for Frank, but that explanation seems too transparent. I doubt that she really wants to work, but she does know how to push the right buttons to appeal to Frank's manliness. Frank never really quite buys into this plan, yet his own discontent initially allows him to fantasize as well. Once he begins to get some recognition from others at work and begins to "find" himself a bit more content with who is is becoming and where he is now, he resents April's plan; he regains control and orders her to let the business of finding himself be his once again. The power struggles between these two seems endless. Near the end of this section, Frank seems to find new comfort in routine, as boring and as unchallenging as it may be. Often it's easier to accept being stuck than to start all over again. Fear of the unknown, of discovering that you are not the person that you think you might be, that you won't live up to your own or others' expectations can be a powerful motivator for staying put. Every time I hear Mrs. Givings' name, I have to wonder if Yates might not have been playing with words in naming her; I read "misgivings" (or perhaps, Ms. Givings, since this is the early 60s after all). She keeps things bottled up so tightly that when she does explode, her meltdown is a bit of a surprise. Like all the others, her outward strength hides her inward turmoil. She is full of self doubt, just like April, Frank, and Shep. And she often has "misgivings" about herself and her decisions, especially about following through with introducing her son, John, to April and Frank. John is an interesting character in his own right, but perhaps he is the most content now that he no longer has to pretend to be "normal." He has escaped, just as his father is able to escape by tuning out. When Mr. Givings turns off his hearing aid, he tunes out the outside voices that bring distraction. It's his wife's voice that he tunes out most; perhaps this it Yates' commentary about not listening to the emerging voices of women in the 60s; perhaps it's more simple than that: a husband who has the ability to escape from that which doesn't interest him and chooses to do so. Great questions this week, Buzz. Looking forward to finishing the book this week and to hearing everyone else's thoughts about the book.
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