marginalia || Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates

Taking a break from the NaNoWriMo madness (which I call a “whimsy” on my less hopeful/diligent hours). Yates demands that I write about his Wheelers. Never mind that I didn’t bring my book with me (apologies for inaccuracy of quotes; will revise as soon as I can), never mind that in a couple of hours, I’ll be heading off to a cemetery (it’s a Long Weekend of the Dead in this country).

I’m winging this.


Previously titled–“They Slept Like Children”: Thoughts on Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.

>> I took notes as I read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, almost by instinct. As though I were studying midterms on The Meaning of Life (haha-haa). I read the book in ten-twelve hours. It’s not diligence, I think–it’s stubbornness, as well as, huh, Manila suffered a power outage for hours and hours and all that candlelight and shrieking wind compelled me to finish RR.

revolutionaryroadI don’t have any illusions that I’m going to say new things about the book. It’s practically canon, after all. [And isn’t that a good thing? Wasn’t it near-neglected as little as a decade ago?] My discovery of the book was thanks to the movie version starring Titanic couple Winslet and DiCaprio. Before y’all squirm, I’m going to just toss it out there: it was a kick-ass movie, I was aghast by its brutal portrayal of your run-of-the-mill “settled” suburbian couple, I was on the edge of my seat and wringing my hands, and afterwards I had to take a long long long walk and emo myself out. AND it made me run out and shout, “OMG IT’S BASED ON A BOOK GIMME GIMME.” That’s always a good thing to credit a movie.

Here are some of them, given as much sense and coherence as I could, running on two Pepsis and all that jazz. And, obviously, I can’t post all my notes, because this entry will never end that way.


[1] Does Yates hate people? {I first wrote,} Echoing the question of one too many readers. Well–there’s this impression that the tone of RR is artful misogyny. He can be cruel, yes, cruel in a disarming way that he tends to highlight character’s flaws–Frank’s too-round face, April’s heavy hips, Mrs. Givings’ ugly feet, the wife of an officemate  is “massively soft and wrinkled.” Oh, of course he’s honest, of course he’s brutally so. I think this impression is compounded by the texture of Yates’ narrative–he’s just so darned omniscient, isn’t he? And he reveals too much, too willingly. But–the unflinching “This is what it is, folks” attitude lends an authoritative voice to the subject matter. It’s chilling.

[2] Silence. Revolutionary Road has a lot to say about silence, considering that it gives out such a chatty, domestic-disturbance kind of vibe–ah, shaky marriage most duplicitous: one moment all seething, the next raging. But Yates describes that silence in an early argument (a flashback scene) of the Wheelers–and Frank thinks that it’s over because April’s all quiet. And then–

But it turned out that she was only thinking it over, preparing her next words with great care to make sure they would say exactly what she meant. {p.53}

That sentence gave me pause. I had to put the book down and do my emo Stare-Off-Into-Space schtick. It gives a whole new dimension to all the little silences and request for silences and the welcoming of silences and the petulant refusal to grant silences. Jesus. One of April Wheeler’s refrains is, “Could we sort of stop talking about it?” when Frank is all pseudo-solicitous and adamant at finding out the main thing.

Because, see, throughout the novel, we see alter-scenarios that Frank comes up with. He’d want to say something, but he’d say something else “instead.” And this is an attitude at odds with April’s own. [Ta-dah, conflict!] Goodness, I felt like the LitGods rewarded me when I pulled that out of my noggin.

[3] Perception of the Wheelers, and their Live in Europe Forever and Ever Plan. Two sets of neighbors/friends–the Campbells and the Givingses–call the plan “immature” and “unsavory” {respectively}. Even Frank allows himself to think that “…everything comprised…” against Paris. All this proves the Wheelers’ thesis on the “hopeless emptiness” of middle-class suburbia–and the reader’s lulled into nodding along with them. And of course it’s a certified insane man that tells the Wheelers they’re doing the right thing, that he approves of the plan–because it kicks that “evasiveness,” that denial of what is hopeless right in the gut.


I have to stop here. For now. I’ll probably do another installment of these RR thoughts–I’ll go back to this post too–as soon as I reunite with my copy, as soon as I’m able to figure out what it really was I was taking notes for.

Happy November, everyone.

4 thoughts on “marginalia || Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates

  1. OMG I love your rant erm.. post! I need to review RevRoad but I can never beat this! Good thing it’s not a competition LOL.

    I actually read the book first and I will be watching the movie next Saturday with some book group friends. I had a hard time picturing (especially) DiCaprio and Winslet, seeing e main Madmen characters before my minds eye.

    Anyway, I’ve immediately put your blog in my rss-feeds to follow!

    1. I do seem like I’m ranting, no? Haha, I actually love Revolutionary Road. In a restrained manner. Does that make sense? :)

      Thank you for dropping by. :) I’ll try not to, er, rant, hahaha. Too much, that is.


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