Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Helen and Howard drive to Greenacres to take John out for a visit. In the car, Helen tells John that she has good news: the Wheelers will not be moving to Europe. John is shocked and asks why not. Helen says she doesn’t know and didn’t ask. She tries to talk about the scenery out the car window, but John is hostile. When they arrive at the Wheelers’ house, the house looks somehow unwelcoming. Helen peeks into the window and sees Frank looking desperately upset. He sees her looking in the window before she has time to move away, and lets her in. Everyone feels awkward, and Helen realizes that they must have been fighting when she arrived.
John thought the Wheelers’ decision to move to Europe was a sign that they were kindred spirits. Since he has been locked in a mental institution, he took an outsized interest in the Wheeler’s plan to escape the boring life in the suburbs, feeling that they were escaping the very life that he was locked up for rebelling against. He thus feels personally let down that they are not following through with the plan.
Themes
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
John abruptly asks the Wheelers why they aren’t moving to Europe. 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 people have babies in Europe. Frank says that he needs to earn money to support the baby. John agrees that money is a good reason, but it’s not usually the real reason. He asks if April talked Frank out of it, then says that she looks “tough and female.” He says it must have been Frank who got cold feet. Helen and Howard try to stop John from speaking, but he continues. He says that Frank probably got April pregnant just so he wouldn’t have to move.
John sees through Frank’s explanations and expresses his contempt for Frank. He intuits exactly what happened: Frank used April’s pregnancy as a reason to give up the plan to move to Europe. April is silent, not supporting Frank’s conventional explanation. While Mrs. Givings gives the typical “feminine” reaction, responding with joy to the news of April’s pregnancy, John reads April’s silence to mean that she is unhappy that they are not moving and refuses to play the proud, happy mother as her society dictates women should.
Themes
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
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 John, who says that he feels bad for April, but also for Frank, since “making babies 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 of course he doesn’t have very much to be glad about in life. Helen is glad to see that he is letting Howard lead him out the door. But John makes one last remark. He says he doesn’t have much to be happy about in life, given his position in a mental institution. But, pointing at April’s stomach, he says, “you know what I’m glad of? I’m glad I’m not gonna be that kid.”
To defend himself against John’s insulting remarks, Frank uses the same tactic he has used against April in the past. He suggests that it is a sign of insanity to question him, especially since he has the backing of society’s expectations for how men and women should behave. John strikes back by suggesting that April and Frank’s unhappiness will make the life of their unborn child unhappy. John is considered “crazy,” but his insults are extremely perceptive.
Themes
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon