Richard Yates’s finest work is considered to be Revolutionary Road, his debut novel. The book revolves around the main characters’ married life and explores their issues.
Richard Yates was born on February 3rd, 1926. Growing up in an unstable home, his parents divorced when he was only 3. At the age of 20, he started working as a journalist and a freelance ghostwriter until he shifted his interests towards writing books and novels.
His first book, Revolutionary Road, was a masterpiece. The book was met with critical acclaim and was also a finalist for the National Book Award in 1962. It is also included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.
Needless to say, Revolutionary Road was an instant hit. The characters of the book yearned to live the American Dream, but unfortunately, they only knew misery and grief. The analysis of Richard Yates’s book explores the themes and characters of Revolutionary Road.
The analysis of the book Revolutionary Road: What was Richard Yates trying to tell us through his characters?
The events of Revolutionary Road take place in the mid-1950s. The main characters, Frank and April Wheeler are a couple who seem to be perfect. They’re young, attractive, family-oriented and have 2 beautiful, happy children and live a suburban life. Sounds fantastic, right?
Well, Richard Yates makes us look twice. The seemingly perfect American family isn’t exactly in their best place. The wife, April Wheeler, is unhappy as a housewife, and the husband, Frank Wheeler, hates his job. But they’re both convinced that something great awaits.
Throughout the book, we understand that the couple simultaneously resents and loves each other. Richard Yates focused on the American Dream.
How did it crumble their marriage? How did it ruin their lives? How can something so beautiful become the foundation of the Wheeler’s destruction? The analysis of Revolutionary Road shows us how bitterness and agony can force someone to make fatal decisions.
Analysis of Revolutionary Road’s plot: How are the characters first introduced in Richard Yates’s book?
The book starts with a play. April is starring in an amateur dramatic production of The Petrified Forest that ends up being embarrassing with terrible performances. The other actors didn’t care about the bad performance as much as she did, she felt as if she were alone.
With every line, April grew weaker and weaker and the audience could tell how she felt. They felt sorry and embarrassed for the actors. Her husband Frank tries to console her, but uses all the wrong words and ends up angering her even more.
On their way back home, they pull over on the road get into a huge fight. In this chapter, the book analysis shows us that this is neither their first fight, nor the first time Frank tried to get physical with her, he had slapped her before.
Richard Yates continues telling us how April becomes infuriated with everything Frank does and constantly wants to be left alone. She grows intolerant of him and wishes him to sleep on the couch. Frank’s loneliness and bitterness lead him into seducing his significantly younger and attractive coworker, Maureen Grube.
If the erosion of their marriage had started at the beginning of the book, then the infidelity ensures it. The Wheelers were sure they were better than their friends and neighbors. They were confident that they were destined for something better than a banal, boring suburban life.
Frank knew that his high paying job was eventually a dull office job. April knew that being a housewife forever would only drive her insane. They both had hopes and dreams that this wasn’t the end of the line. Frank knew that his wife was a first-rate girl, which is why he had to be a first-rate man, but that didn’t stop either one of them from disrespecting each other. Being first-rate was the root of his motivation.
Analysis of Revolutionary Road: What happens to the characters later in Richard Yates’s book?
Halfway through the book, we see that April suddenly has a change of heart and blames herself for all the fights they’ve been having. She suggests moving to Europe where Frank can finally pursue his dream of becoming a writer. She’d have a job so he could work on his book full-time.
The children were young, they wouldn’t have trouble adjusting there. For a while, the idea of moving to Europe kept their marriage alive as Frank ended his affair with Maureen. During a casual encounter with their neighbor and real estate agent Helen Givings, she and her husband suggest meeting their son, John Givings, who apparently has a mental disorder.
The couple accepts. Every meeting with John ends up with him insulting the Wheelers and strikes a chord specifically with Frank.
Soon, April becomes pregnant with her third child, but is keen on aborting it. This makes their plan to move to Europe crumble, and simultaneously, Frank gets a promotion.
After convincing April to keep it by manipulating her to seek psychiatric help for her troubled childhood, she sleeps with the family friend and neighbor Shep Campbell, who’s also secretly in love with her. April rejects him when he confesses The situation also makes Frank resurrect his affair with Maureen.
Ending the analysis of the book’s plot: How does Richard Yates bring justice to his characters in Revolutionary Road?
With more bitterness towards each than before, Frank finally tells April about the affair. Surprisingly, she doesn’t seem to care. She confesses that she doesn’t love him anymore and does not care what he does, which drives Frank even crazier. Frank slams the truth in her face saying that out of 3 pregnancies, she wanted to abort 2 of them.
She confesses and acknowledges that she had her second child to prove that she indeed wanted her firstborn. In the morning, things seem queer to Frank. His wife had prepared breakfast for him and was actually nice to him. It had been a while since the Wheelers had had a nice breakfast.
Remembering the argument from the night before with April’s words still engraved in his mind, Frank plays along. The minute he leaves for work, April starts implementing the plan she had devised. In an attempt to perform self-abortion, she is rushed to the hospital, but dies from blood loss and complications following the abortion.
Her death leaves Frank a hollow shell of his former self. Shep consoles him saying that April did it to herself and he wasn’t at fault. Frank and the Wheeler children move in with their uncle. The book ends with their former realtor Helen speaking to her husband how she didn’t like the Wheelers while her husband turns his hearing aid off.
Revolutionary Road’s character analysis: What did Richard Yates hope to represent through the main characters in the book?
Let’s begin with April Wheeler. She’s a suburban mom who stars in a failed drama. Parallel to her life, she is also a dramatic person. She is quick to change her mind and makes drastic decisions.
One day she’s happily in love with Frank, another day she hates her life and wants to leave him. One day she cares what her husband tells her, the next day she doesn’t care if he sleeps with another person. April’s emotions depict the unhappy, unstable and depressed state of mind.
Being April is an emotional rollercoaster, so is being married to her. The analysis of the character begins with her childhood. She lived with her uncle and aunt who paid zero attention to her. The absence of her parents and attention had a monumental impact on April, as every decision she makes is connected to them.
She believes she’s better than others. April is pretentious and lives in a reality she created. She pretends to be mature, whereas, in reality, she’s still a child.
Moving on to Frank, a man who’s sick of his boring, but a well-paying job. Every question asked about it, he always answers with complaints, but he doesn’t really know what he really wants. He loves his wife, but fails to show her. He sleeps with his coworker but is “emotionally” faithful to April.
She drives him insane with her constant change of heart, and he’s always angry with her and bored with life. He also has violent tendencies. Physical and emotional abuse is a constant theme throughout Richard Yates’s book.
At the beginning of Revolutionary Road, we discover that he has hit her before and tries doing it again. He uses manipulation to get what he wants and constantly uses it on his wife. An energetic, lively man, he becomes a lifeless, empty shell after April’s death.
Revolutionary Road’s secondary character analysis: What were their roles in Richard Yates’s book?
The secondary characters are the Campbells, the Givings and Maureen Grube. The Campbells also seem perfect. Milly is perhaps the only character in the book who has a good heart. She has pure intentions and is April’s best friend.
Milly represents the hope of living a happy life. Her husband, Shep, on the other hand, isn’t on the same page as his wife. He doesn’t truly appreciate what he has and always longs for the things he doesn’t.
He is in love with April because she’s perfect and more elegant than his wife. He eventually sleeps with her but she rejects his advances when he confesses his love to her. Milly and Shep are contrasts of each other.
John Givings is the mentally unstable son of Helen and Howard, the Wheeler’s realtors. He doesn’t exactly have self-control, he blurts out what he thinks without taking into considerations other people’s feelings. He’s rude, but he’s honest.
With lies and infidelity all over the book, John is the character who always speaks the truth. He can see what other people feel, he shouts what other people hide. He has no censorship, as the truth cannot be censored.
His mother, Helen, is always on the watch. She is always interested in everyone’s business and constantly gossips. She is fake and two-faced. Until April’s death, she’s always nice to the Wheelers, but after, she tells her husband how she never did.
But why does she care about other people’s lives so much? Because she doesn’t have a life of her own. With a man she doesn’t truly love and a son with a mental disorder, she is unhappy and dissatisfied. Gossip is her only form of entertainment.
Her husband, Howard, is a man of simple pleasures. He wants peace of mind and he wants his son to behave. He easily grows tired from his wife’s chitchats and turns his hearing aid off without her knowledge.
Maureen Grube is an attractive, young woman who works at Frank’s office. She is quick to fall in love with him after sleeping with him, but the feeling isn’t mutual. Maureen represents the loss of hope in the simplest and easiest way. Her heartbreak is merely an introduction to what life has waiting for you in the long term.
Summing up Richard Yate’s book analysis: What do the characters of Revolutionary Road teach us?
Betrayal is an inescapable theme of Revolutionary Road. Frank betrays April and Maureen, April betrays Frank, Shep betrays Milly. It’s not only about betraying others, but yourself too.
The Wheeler’s selfishness, self-deception, weakness and inability to tell the truth hinder them from living the lives they want. But, as imperfect as they are, they continue believing that they’re destined to something greater than an average suburban life.
The lack of their self-worth and self-respect led to their destruction. Richard Yates constantly remind the characters of their humiliation and miscalculations, which leads to the reader being disappointed in the main characters.
There are no heroes in Revolutionary Road, only wrongdoers and victims.
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