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Week 13

Richard Yates Revolutionary Road (1961)

 Look again at Empire of Liberty week 13.  If you haven't already done so, explore it fully.

Please listen to The Association of Women Real Estates Creed.

  • Consider the characterisation of Helen Givings and of the other women characters in the light of this.
  • "The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. The very mechanism which ties the individual to his society has changed, and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced. " (Herbert Marcuse) How might Marcuse's concept of One Dimensional Man inform a reading of this text?
  • Richard Yates "meant the title to suggest that the revolutionary road of 1776 ... our best and bravest revolutionary spirit [perhaps briefly embodied by April Wheeler], had come to something very much like a dead end in the fifties." (1974 interview). Consider the implications of the title and the various ways these are pursued in the text.
  • Find examples of Yates' comic sensibility at work in the text. What is the function of the comedy and what effect does it have on the reader?
  • Richard Ford, himself a very fine novelist and short story writer, praises this novel for "its apparent effortlessness, its complete accessibility, its luminous particularity, its deep seriousness toward us human beings — about whom it conjures shocking insights and appraisals." Would you agree with this assessment?
  • Compare this novel's handling of "the problem without a name" (Betty Friedan) with Plath's handling of the same issue in The Bell Jar.
  • Compare the ways in which The Bell Jar, Marge Piercy's Braided Lives and Revolutionary Road depict societal attitudes towards female sexuality and their consequences.
  • Through a comparison of the literary text and the film version of this novel,  identify and analyse the specific literary narrative techniques employed by Yates that cannot be translated to the film version. What is the effect of the specific narrative strategies used by Yates?
  • Ponder the significance of: The Petrified Forest, the garden path Frank is constructing, the picture window.


Further Reading

I recommend these two classic texts as useful for thinking about all the texts we are studying in this part of the module:


John Mullan, "Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates." Guardian Book Club. 18 Sept 2004-2 Oct 2004.

Richard Price : "Make the Bastards Pay for it."