As I was reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, I felt as if I were looking through a peep-hole into another couple’s marriage. An amazing feat since it’s written in the third person. Listen to the inside of Frank’s head:
“Intelligent, thinking people could take things like this in their stride, just as they took the larger absurdities of deadly dull jobs in the city and deadly dull homes in the suburbs. Economic circumstance might force you to live in this environment, but the important thing was to keep from being contaminated. The important thing, always, was to remember who you were.”
The novel is divided into three parts. Part One begins with the stage group the Laurel Players, one of whom we find out quickly is April Wheeler, Frank’s wife. Part Two begins with Frank trying to pin down a certain joyous time period, how long it was “before his life began to come back into focus, with its customary concern for the passage of time and its anxious need to measure and apportion it…”
Part Three begins with an aphorism, at a far distance from Frank and April Wheeler. “Our ability to measure and apportion time affords an almost endless source of comfort.” Note the repetition. It then moves from the infantry captain’s “oh six hundred” to the executive’s “day-sized pages” “booked solid” to the ancient man who, from the sun is able to bring “order out of chaos” and finally, with a space break, to April and Frank looking at A.J. Stolper and Sons’ Hardware and Home Furnishings’ wall calendar.
Two pages which make me think of Annie Dillard’s “A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”
For an interesting interview of Richard Yates by Geoffrey Clark and DeWitt Henry (the Founding Editor of Ploughshares, author of Safe Suicide, and a good friend of Yates), click here. Revolutionary Road was published in 1961. I read it for the first time in 1999, ten years ago. The movie came out in 2008, forty-seven years after the novel.