So, I'm reading Revolutionary Road. - Mothering Forums
Book Clubs > So, I'm reading Revolutionary Road.
citrus reticulata's Avatar citrus reticulata 05:32 AM 01-11-2008
Has anyone else here read it, or would like to? I just picked it up from the library yesterday, so I'm just starting. I'd love to discuss, though, it's pretty good so far.

kaliki_kila's Avatar kaliki_kila 12:02 AM 03-18-2008
I'm game! I hadn't heard of it, but from the description on Amazon it looks interesting. I'll put it in my library hold list.
philomom's Avatar philomom 09:36 PM 05-28-2008
I hated that one. Be happy to discuss. My book club read it last fall.
SherryR's Avatar SherryR 10:01 PM 06-08-2008
If you are still interested, I'm game. I've read it a few times and I really enjoyed it.
philomom's Avatar philomom 02:15 PM 07-31-2008
Are you kidding me? Suburban life is bad.... but not that bad. And those poor kids will grow up motherless.
That Is Nice's Avatar That Is Nice 09:39 PM 01-23-2009
I read Revolutionary Road. I'm torn. It was an easy read that was interesting and drew me in, and I thought a lot about it afterwards, but I really didn't like the ending.

I don't know...I guess I can understand the characters in the book to some extent, but then I know a lot of women/mothers who would really like to be in April's place in life...two kids, married, a nice house, being a stay-at-home mother, and pregnant again.

Then again, happiness is all about choice, I guess. A theme in the book was definitely April's lack of choice (hence the ending, which I found incredibly sad and heart breaking).

She probably felt trapped because that scenario of life (wife, kids, house in the suburbs) wasn't her choice. She was doing what was expected of her for the time she was born into and economic status that she married into. She would have been happier and more stimulated working, I think.

I guess I didn't see Frank as a terrible husband until the middle of the book when he had the affair, but then I do think that was a very human and 1950s/1960s thing to do. Times are different now.

What I really liked about Frank was that he really tried to understand April, and to make life better for her. Yes, he had limitations and was a coward about implementing their dream of living in Europe, but he was a good provider, and he seemed to be interested in taking care of his children and loving his wife.

I also got bored with their constant thinking that people living in Europe and the advant garde of the Village/NYC were so much more "real" than anyone else. That's a bit too easy, and stumped intellectually for me. It's like saying you have to wear hipster clothing to be hip.

They were living in suburbia and had chosen that...they made fun of their neighbors who had chosen the same thing...who's to say their neighbors didn't have the same thoughts and feeling of being stifled, too? Given all the literature about 1950s/1960s suburban upper middle class culture, I'd be willing to guess that most of their neighbors felt the very same way, but kept it hidden (Betty Friedan, "The Feminine Mystique, etc).

In some ways, I kind of felt like Frank and April were posers. They prided themselves on things like sparse decorating style as a sign that they were "authentic," "intellectual," and "real."

Kind of silly.

One other thought is that I felt a reader could definitely tell the story was written by a male author. The sensibility of the novel, and the way females were described was definitely more of a male perspective than female.

My question is "is this a realistic portrayal of suburban middle class marriages of the period"?

If so, I'm so happy to be a female in post-feminist America! I'm reminded of the Gloria Steinen quote, "Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry."

That's the beauty of choice. I can provide for myself as well as any man if I set myself up to do that, and I can also be a SAHM, with the right support, and re-enter the workforce at a later date. I just can't go seamlessly between those two roles without a lot of planning and time...but hopefully our daughters will! And they won't feel April's desperation.
oceane's Avatar oceane 08:04 AM 01-31-2009
I watched the movie recently and the book is currently not available at the library but I'm in. I really liked the movie, I can understand very much where everyone came from.
That Is Nice's Avatar That Is Nice 12:28 PM 01-31-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceane View Post
I watched the movie recently and the book is currently not available at the library but I'm in. I really liked the movie, I can understand very much where everyone came from.
I'm looking forward to seeing the movie at some point because I really like Kate Winslet and I like Leonardo DiCaprio. And I also like the director Sam Mendes.

I do think that suburban angst and unfullfillment is a theme that has been examined so often in movies and books that it doesn't seem that fresh or that original, although the book Revolutionary Road was one of the first to do that given it's publication date (early 60s).

In a lot of ways, though, the couple in this book/film were never as advant garde as they longed to be. They weren't artists, etc. They simply admired from afar and longed for what they might have missed if they had chosen a different path.

I think the author was making a commentary beyond just suburban angst. In some ways I wonder if he portrayed Frank and April as posers posing as one thing and living quite another life. Then when April called Frank's bluff, that's where the real story is. When he was finally offered the chance to find himself in France because she would support the family, he wasn't sure what to do and if that is what he really wanted.

One thing I hope someone could explain to me is the significance of the play at the beginning. I really didn't understand why it was so impactful an event in their lives.

Also, I wish it were still possible for a woman to support a family as a typist/interpreter/office worker in Europe as April planned to do.

She had been out of the work force for at least 5 years with her kids. And she talked about how she would work in Europe and earn enough to hire a housekeeper and nanny for the children so that Frank would have his days free to find himself. I just wonder if that is realistic, then or now?
teachma's Avatar teachma 10:18 PM 02-02-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post

One thing I hope someone could explain to me is the significance of the play at the beginning. I really didn't understand why it was so impactful an event in their lives.
I think the play, and April's playing a role in particular, represented the avant garde lifestyle they wished they had...the metropolitan, chic, serious, artistic people they wished they were. And the fact that the play was a failure speaks to the lifestyle that April and Frank (and their friends, whose last name I'm forgetting at the moment) never did live up to what they'd hoped...Also, just the fact that they were "acting" is symbolic and parallel, as I agree with previous posters about their being poseurs.
That Is Nice's Avatar That Is Nice 01:38 PM 02-04-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by teachma View Post
And the fact that the play was a failure speaks to the lifestyle that April and Frank (and their friends, whose last name I'm forgetting at the moment) never did live up to what they'd hoped...Also, just the fact that they were "acting" is symbolic and parallel, as I agree with previous posters about their being poseurs.
Good point! I think you are right.

I kind of got the first part you said, but I totally overlooked the second point, when I read the book, and I think you are right.

Honestly, I kept thinking about the play, they are making a huge deal out of nothing. I was thinking if something like that happened in my life, it would be no big deal, no cause of a huge fight for sure.

But then they were stringing their whole imagined and dreamed of identities based on being artists, different, advant garde, imaginative, creative people. What you said makes sense.
AuntNi's Avatar AuntNi 07:07 PM 02-08-2009
Poseurs - thank you! That was *exactly* the word I was trying to think of as I read the book. They were sooo self-absorbed they couldn't imagine that anyone besides them might have other aspirations/dreams. I just finished it today, and am leaving to go see the movie in a few minutes.

I identified a lot with April, and thought that Frank was nowhere near good enough for her. Maybe I empathized with her because I did the conservatory/study-opera-in-NYC thing, then moved to the suburbs. I also knew I wasn't good enough to hack it professionally. Like April, I would have been devastated to bomb so horribly in a performance in front of my neighbors.

*BUT* the big difference is I had a choice. I wanted to move to the suburbs. I prayed to become a mom, and wouldn't trade it for anything. I was able to keep working at a job I loved while being a mom. And if I had felt as strongly as April did about not wanting children, I could have legally and safely prevented it. The parts where Frank fought tooth and nail for her to continue the pregnancies, when he himself didn't want the kids - well, those just killed me.

I thought the writing was incredible. Yates did an incredible job portraying Frank. Didn't you love how the drunk and the paranoid schizophrenic were the only characters who verbalized the truth of the Wheelers' situation? His drunk friend asked something like, "Um, don't you think you might 'find yourself' here?" If ever anyone was cut out to be a p.r. rep, it was Frank - soooooo full of b.s.

One more thing that jumped out at me was the childcare situation. The neighbor who could watch the kids for days at a time like Milly Campbell did. April herself was raised by relatives other than her parents. And at the end, Frank just dumped the kids off with a relative, even though he knew how horribly that had affected April growing up. I'm choosing to think those kids will be blessed to at least have a stable home life now - otherwise, I'd be despondent about the ending of this book.
teale's Avatar teale 06:01 AM 02-20-2009
I'll join! I just finished this book a few weeks ago...

Someone mentioned the play? I thought it had a lot to do with the course of their life- in the first act, April was beautiful, and full of life. As the play progressed she became more and more disheartened. The play was essentially a failure, and she was devastated. Frank was optimistic, trying to stay positive, and support her. It was their relationship, life and such all laid out in front of you.

Honestly, I loved the book. I related to April, and found that I felt sorry for her. Then I felt sorry for Frank. Their relationship was built on pipe dreams, on "could haves" and "maybes". The disconnection they both had from their children was telling as well (regarding the play- none of the other actors were doing what April needed, or had planned- much like her children). I found that the characters were deep, and I felt that the writing was so profound. I think that every relationship hits a tough mark like this, (with not so dramatic events).

I'm excited to see the movie.
That Is Nice's Avatar That Is Nice 11:06 AM 02-20-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by teale View Post
Someone mentioned the play? I thought it had a lot to do with the course of their life- in the first act, April was beautiful, and full of life. As the play progressed she became more and more disheartened. The play was essentially a failure, and she was devastated. Frank was optimistic, trying to stay positive, and support her. It was their relationship, life and such all laid out in front of you.
I think you are right in this comparison to the play to the story arc of their lives.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teale View Post
The play was essentially a failure, and she was devastated.
This is the part I didn't understand, and couldn't relate to. I just couldn't wrap my brain around April's sense of self-worth being so tied to her performance of one amateur's play, and the first play they were involved in with the local theater troupe.

It seemed so trivial. Why not just move on, and try for another play and gain practice?

That wouldn't have been so dramatic for the story line, though.
That Is Nice's Avatar That Is Nice 11:10 AM 02-20-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by teale View Post
The disconnection they both had from their children was telling as well (regarding the play- none of the other actors were doing what April needed, or had planned- much like her children).
I think this disconnection from children was symptomatic of the culture of the 1950s suburban middle and upper middle class.

It was also a cycle for Frank and April. As children, they were disconnnected from their own parents.

I was really saddened by the disconnect towards their children, though. How sad for the kids. And how sad at the end where the kids are shipped off to live with their uncle and aunt.

I think the social norms about children have definitely changed. Now there is this intense form of parenting, where much attention is paid to kids.
That Is Nice's Avatar That Is Nice 11:16 AM 02-20-2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by teale View Post
I found that the characters were deep, and I felt that the writing was so profound.
Do you mean the characters were deep in the way the author wrote about them in detail, drawing out their inner thoughts and fears?

Or that the characters themselves, Frank and April, were deep people?

I agree with the first, but the second I don't agree with. I found Frank and April to be incredibly shallow.

They were posers, I think.

They wanted to be artists, and interesting, and advant garde, but they tried to show this by re-arranging their furniture certain ways, etc.

They weren't really artistic, or well read, or cultural creatives. They were boring, and ordinary, and reaching for ways to differentiate from their suburban neighbors in material ways...a better book collection, dressing differently, talking differently. I felt sorry for the way the other couple, Millie and her husband, tried to be the same kind of posers with the book collection.

When I was reading it I kept thinking if you compared the titles Frank and April thought artistic and interesting should have on their book shelves to the books people in Greenwich Village or the Beat community were actually reading, I wonder what you'd discover.

I also really didn't like the way Frank and April made fun and put down the other people who lived in Revolutionary Estates or whatever the subdivision was called. They acted like all those people were completely satisfied with their boring, unimaginative lives in mediocre suburbs with mediocre jobs. I bet their neighbors had a lot of the same feelings and dashed hopes and dreams that Frank and April had. They were not unique.

I think Frank was the biggest poser. He wanted to be interesting and artistic and creative and yet he went to a job every day where he practiced being a drone. He literally practiced that. He described going in and doing the minimum he needed to get by...just went through the motions. He wasn't even capable of being interesting or innovative in his career, although in the end he does start to turn that way.

I felt incredibly sorry for April. I think she was trapped by society's role for her in her marriage. She tested Frank by seeing if he'd call her bluff of selling everything and going off to Europe where he could find himself and she could support the family.
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