Revolutionary Road

Helen Givings Character Analysis

A high-strung perfectionist, Helen Givings escapes from the unfulfilling aspects of her life by throwing herself into work as a realtor. She also expends her extra energy by renovating houses and then reselling them for greater value. Brought up in an affluent Philadelphia society, Helen looks down on many of the people she sells houses to. She has an air of trying too hard as she tries to make cheerful conversation even in the most uncomfortable situations. She is married to the old and frail Howard and is disappointed in her son John, who has been hospitalized for mental illness.

Helen Givings Quotes in Revolutionary Road

The Revolutionary Road quotes below are all either spoken by Helen Givings or refer to Helen Givings. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Revolutionary Road published in 2000.
Part 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

"In order to agree with that," she said, "I'd have to have a very strange and very low opinion of reality. Because you see I happen to think this is unrealistic. I think it's unrealistic for a man with a fine mind to go on working like a dog year after year at a job he can’t stand, coming home to a house he can’t stand in a place he can’t stand either, to a wife who's equally unable to stand the same things, living among a bunch of frightened little—my God, Frank, I don’t have to tell you what's wrong with this environment—I’m practically quoting you. Just last night when the Campbells were here, remember what you said about the whole idea of suburbia being to keep reality at bay? You said everybody wanted to bring up their children in a bath of sentimentality. You said—”
"I know what I said. I didn’t think you were listening, though. You looked sort of bored."
"I was bored. That's part of what I'm trying to say. I don't think I've ever been more bored and depressed and fed up in my life than I was last night. All that business about Helen Givings's son on top of everything else, and the way we all grabbed at it like dogs after meat; I remember looking at you and thinking 'God, if only he'd stop talking.' Because everything you said was based on this great premise of ours that we're somehow very special and superior to the whole thing, and I wanted to say 'But we're not! Look at us! We're just like the people you're talking about! We are the people you're talking about!' I sort of had—I don’t know, contempt for you, because you couldn't see the terrific fallacy of the thing.”

Page Number: 115-116
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

And she'd never been able to explain or even to understand that what she loved was not the job—it could have been any job—or even the independence it gave her (though of course that was important for a woman constantly veering toward the brink of divorce). Deep down, what she'd loved and needed was work itself. "Hard work," her father had always said, "is the best medicine yet devised for all the ills of man—and of woman," and she'd always believed it… [Work] was the substance of her love; it was all that fortified her against the pressures of marriage and parenthood. Without it, as she often said, she would have gone out of her mind.

Related Characters: Helen Givings, Howard Givings
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

"You hear wrong. Taught it for a while, that's all. Anyway, it's all gone now. You know what electrical shock treatments are? Because you see, the past couple months I've had thirty-five—or no, wait—thirty-seven…The idea is to jolt all the emotional problems out of your mind, you see, but in my case they had a different effect. Jolted out all the God damned mathematics. Whole subject's a total blank."
"How awful," April said.
"'How awful.’” John Givings mimicked her in a mincing, effeminate voice and then turned on her with a challenging smirk. "Why?" he demanded. "Because mathematics is so 'interesting'?"
"No," she said. "Because the shocks must be awful and because it's awful for anybody to forget something they want to remember. As a matter of fact I think mathematics must be very dull."
He stared at her for a long time, and nodded with approval. "I like your girl, Wheeler," he announced at last. "I get the feeling she's female. You know what the difference between female and feminine is? Huh? Well, here's a hint: a feminine woman never laughs out loud and always shaves her armpits. Old Helen in there is feminine as hell. I've only met about half a dozen females in my life, and I think you got one of them here. Course, come to think of it, that figures. I get the feeling you're male. There aren’t too many males around, either."

Related Characters: Frank Wheeler (speaker), April Wheeler (speaker), John Givings (speaker), Helen Givings
Page Number: 200-201
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3, Chapter 5 Quotes

"Big man you got here, April," he said, winking at her as he fitted the workman's cap on his head. "Big family man, solid citizen. I feel sorry for you. Still, maybe you deserve each other. Matter of fact, the way you look right now, I'm beginning to feel sorry for him, too. I mean come to think of it, you must give him a pretty bad time, if making babies is the only way he can prove he's got a pair of balls."
"All right, John," Howard was murmuring. "Let's get on out to the car now."
"April," Mrs. Givings whispered. "I can't tell you how sorry I—"
"Right," John said, moving away with his father. "Sorry, sorry, sorry. Okay Ma? Have I said 'Sorry' enough times? I am sorry, too. Damn; I bet I'm just about the sorriest bastard I know. Course, get right down to it, I don't have a whole hell of a lot to be glad about, do I?"
And at least, Mrs. Givings thought, if nothing else could be salvaged from this horrible day, at least he was allowing Howard to lead him away quietly. All she had to do now was to follow them, to find some way of getting across this floor and out of this house, and then it would all be over.
But John wasn’t finished yet. "Hey, I'm glad of one thing, though," he said, stopping near the door and turning back, beginning to laugh again, and Mrs. Givings thought she would die as he extended a long yellow-stained index finger and pointed it at the slight mound of April's pregnancy. "You know what I'm glad of? I'm glad I'm not gonna be that kid."

Related Characters: Helen Givings (speaker), John Givings (speaker), Howard Givings (speaker), Frank Wheeler , April Wheeler
Page Number: 302-303
Explanation and Analysis:
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Helen Givings Character Timeline in Revolutionary Road

The timeline below shows where the character Helen Givings appears in Revolutionary Road. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
...unhappy. As the uncomfortable audience members file out of the auditorium, the real-estate broker Mrs. Helen Givings can be heard repeating “very nice” over and over. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
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...and April drive down Revolutionary Road, the same road they traveled two years earlier with Helen Givings, when she showed them their house. Helen had been impressed by them and had... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
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...take over mowing the lawn from April after drinking some coffee, but at that moment Helen Givings drops by, bringing him a sedum planting. Helen is always in motion, always smiling... (full context)
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Frank says he thinks most people thought the play was not very good, but Helen says that it was fine except “Mr. Crandell” (Shep Campbell) was badly cast. Helen always... (full context)
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Jennifer and Michael, the Wheeler children, run up to their father to see what Helen brought him. April approaches and he asks her what he should do with the plant.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
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Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
...Milly talks about gardening, and Frank asks if she knows what “seecham” (sedum) is, saying Helen brought them some. Milly is unsure what it is. Milly suddenly remembers something to tell... (full context)
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April says that she has felt that Helen wanted to say something to them, but couldn’t get the words out. Without quite looking... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
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The next night, April tells Frank that she has bad news. Helen Givings invited them to dinner the next day. April declined, but then, realizing they needed... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
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Helen Givings and her husband Howard live in one of the few preserved pre-Revolutionary houses in... (full context)
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Helen is relieved to get home, because, after so many years constantly moving, she loves her... (full context)
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Helen serves Howard tea. He has his hearing aid off, and although Helen talks to him... (full context)
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But at the Wheelers’ house, Helen is surprised to see that the Wheelers are uncharacteristically calm, and seem perfectly content in... (full context)
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Back at her home, Helen eagerly tells Howard the astonishing news that the Wheelers will be moving to Europe. She... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
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Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
...saying it looks like a place where people live. April offers the Givingses sherry, and Helen begins to refuse, but John says that he would like it in a highball glass.... (full context)
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John interrupts Helen and asks Frank if he is a lawyer. Frank tells John that he has an... (full context)
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...math is probably boring. John tells Frank admiringly that April seems “female,” not “feminine” like Helen. (full context)
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Watching John, Frank, and April through the window, Helen observes to Howard that they seem to be having a nice time. Howard suggests that... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
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Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
...he is at work, she is stuck in the boring world of their home. Meanwhile, Helen Givings continually drops by, pretending to want to talk about the sale of their house,... (full context)
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...Sunday of John Givings’s visit. John is in an agitated state when he arrives with Helen and Howard. Frank hopes that seeing a “full-fledged mental case” will convince April that she... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
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Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
Helen can hardly process the news that the Wheelers will be staying. She is exhausted after... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
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Helen and Howard drive to Greenacres to take John out for a visit. In the car,... (full context)
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...Frank says their minds were made up for them, gesturing towards April’s visibly pregnant stomach. Helen exclaims her congratulations, but she notes that April doesn’t look happy. John persists, saying that... (full context)
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...is the only way he can prove he’s got a pair of balls.” Howard and Helen try to usher John out, apologizing to the Wheelers. John says he’s very sorry, but... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8
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...she will only seem silly if she calls April. Then she gets a call from Helen Givings, who tells her she saw an ambulance pulling out of the Wheelers’ driveway. Milly... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
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Helen Givings had also gone through a period of shock and then recovery after April’s death.... (full context)
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One night in May, Helen tells Howard that the Braces are the first really nice people she has ever found... (full context)