The character of John Givings in Revolutionary Road from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

Revolutionary Road

John Givings Character Analysis

An intelligent non-conformist and former mathematics teacher, John Givings has been put into a state mental institution and subjected to electrical shock therapy after holding his parents hostage for a period of several days. His insistence on speaking the truth as he sees it makes his mother Helen very uncomfortable. He is the only person who understands the Wheelers’ desire to move to Europe. April especially feels that he understands her after he says that she is “female” instead of “feminine.”

John Givings Quotes in Revolutionary Road

The Revolutionary Road quotes below are all either spoken by John Givings or refer to John 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
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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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John Givings Character Timeline in Revolutionary Road

The timeline below shows where the character John Givings appears in Revolutionary Road. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 4
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
...a son. The Wheelers remember seeing his photograph and that Helen said his name is John and he hated the navy, but is a brilliant mathematician. Milly shocks them by revealing... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
...day of her planned visit to the Wheelers, Helen had been to visit her son John’s doctor at Greenacres. She finds it horrible there: the psychiatrist is undignified, overworked, poorly dressed,... (full context)
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
...thinks ahead to the evening, when she will ask the Wheelers if she can bring John to visit them. The idea came to her like a vision, and she can picture... (full context)
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
...are uncharacteristically calm, and seem perfectly content in one another’s company. When Helen brings up John, she can see by a slight movement in their faces that they know about John’s... (full context)
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
...job in Europe. She continues, saying that there is no point in introducing them to John now, since she wants him to make permanent friends. Howard seems hardly to follow her... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
The next day is Sunday, the day of John Givings’s visit. Jennifer and Michael go to the Campbells’ house. April feels nervous, but Frank... (full context)
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Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
The Givingses arrive. John Givings is dressed in clothes from the asylum, and smokes intently. His frown makes him... (full context)
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Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
John interrupts Helen and asks Frank if he is a lawyer. Frank tells John that he... (full context)
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Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
Frank, April, and John go outside for a walk. April lets Frank do most of the talking, but looks... (full context)
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Watching John, Frank, and April through the window, Helen observes to Howard that they seem to be... (full context)
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
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After the Givingses are gone, April praises Frank for how he handled John, adding that John seemed nice and intelligent; she especially appreciated what he said about their... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
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...which they have not yet called off, but actually intending to schedule more visits with John. (full context)
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The next day is the Sunday of John Givings’s visit. John is in an agitated state when he arrives with Helen and Howard.... (full context)
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
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After the Givings family leaves, April says that John’s childhood must have been bad with parents like the Givings, but says that Frank probably... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
...Wheelers will be staying. She is exhausted after spending a day at Greenacres talking to John’s psychiatrist. The doctor said that John’s trips out of the hospital should be stopped for... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Helen and Howard drive to Greenacres to take John out for a visit. In the car, Helen tells John that she has good news:... (full context)
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John abruptly asks the Wheelers why they aren’t moving to Europe. Frank says their minds were... (full context)
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Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Frank clenches his fists angrily and says that John should keep his opinions in the insane asylum where they belong. Everyone is uncomfortable except... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
...drink of whiskey. He says to April that he knows what April is thinking: that John was right. April agrees. Frank says John is insane and that insanity is the inability... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
...gone through a period of shock and then recovery after April’s death. She feels that John was to blame for April’s death and decides that he should no longer leave Greenacres... (full context)