Health, Sports & Psychology

A reader's guide to Revolutionary Road

Updated Thursday 1st May 2008

Set against the Eisenhower Presidency, Revolutionary Road captures 1950s America - and preshadows what would come next.

Revolutionary Road was published in 1961, to critical acclaim. Richard Yates was hailed for producing a penetrating anti-suburban, anti-marriage novel, although he has denied that this was his intention.

Rather, he saw his book as an indictment of American life generally in the nineteen-fifties. He has explained that he was disturbed by the desire for conformity, and wanted to voice his feelings about the Eisenhower administration and McCarthyism.

When Yates had the idea for Revolutionary Road, the first part that came to mind was actually the ending. He had to construct the novel to lead up to the striking denouement he had envisaged.

The book begins with a performance by a local drama society, which seems appropriate because it sets the scene for the role play that takes place throughout.

Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple, raising their two youngsters in Connecticut. In truth, however, they are both frustrated by their circumstances.

Dwight D Eisenhower Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: US Government
The head of the Road: Dwight Eisenhower

Frank feels stifled in his career, and April is a dissatisfied housewife. She suggests a solution: a new life awaits them in Europe, so she urges Frank to move to Paris.

Whilst Yates was writing the book, the character of John Givings occurred to him. John is a patient in a mental hospital, but his observations about the Wheelers hit home.

The reader witnesses their descent, as their plans crumble away. In an interview, Yates said that his novel was supposed to be about "a series of abortions, of all kinds".

The forthcoming film of Revolutionary Road will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Cybertalk: Biographies Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Thinkstock article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Cybertalk: Biographies

Short biographies of the contributors to the Cybertalk programme, from the BBC/OU's series Digital Planet

Article
A reader's guide to Things Fall Apart Creative commons image Icon Stuart C Shapiro under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

A reader's guide to Things Fall Apart

Discover a novel originally written as a response to Western literature's protrayal of Africa and the myth of the "dark continent".

Article
Gareth Price's story Creative commons image Icon No GMOs March UK (Activism) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Gareth Price's story

Explore the personal side of climate change with Gareth Price's diary entry.

Article
A reader's guide to Anna Karenina Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

A reader's guide to Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel Anna Karenina is regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction and still enjoys huge critical and popular success.

Article
Autism, mind and brain Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Autism, mind and brain

Why do people on the autism spectrum think and behave in ways which are different from those without autism?

Article
Pin-up polar bear Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Pin-up polar bear

Attorney and director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute Kassie Siegel highlights her campaigns for reducing greenhouse gas pollution and the protection of plants and animals threatened by global warming

Video
10 mins
OU on the BBC: Alternative Therapies - Reflexology Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

OU on the BBC: Alternative Therapies - Reflexology

In the BBC/OU series Alternative Therapies, Kathy Sykes asks whether reflexology has important lessons about the value of touch in health

Article
Day 23 - Royalty Creative commons image Icon By theadz01 via Flickr under Creative Commons license under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Day 23 - Royalty

As another Royal engagement is announced and the nation gears up for the traditional Queen's Speech on Christmas day, we draw together some interesting royal articles and suggestions for taking your learning further

Article
Checks and chavs Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Checks and chavs

Burberry's adoption by a demonised segment of the working class proved troubling for the brand.

Article