Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road Part 3, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At two o’clock that afternoon, Milly is resting, thinking that six kids are too many for one person to handle, when she hears a siren and sees an ambulance pulling onto Revolutionary Road. She has a feeling of foreboding, but thinks 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 calls Shep.
Milly has always worried about seeming good enough to be friends with April, and she feels too self-conscious about April’s judgment to call her to see if she is all right. Helen, who usually pretends to be too good to know Milly’s name, immediately calls her when she sees the ambulance. The usual attitudes about class seem to break down when there is an emergency.
Themes
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
At work, Shep is thinking about April and their incredible night together. He had called her afterwards and told her he was in love with her, and she had threatened to hang up on him. Shep gets called to the phone and hopes, against all logic, that it will be April. Instead it is Milly, with the news that April has been taken away in an ambulance. Shep feels suddenly filled with competence, like he did during the war. He calls the hospital, finds out that April is being treated for a miscarriage, and then calls Frank. Frank is pulled from his meeting and sounds shocked. Shep runs to the train station to wait for Frank, who is coming back from the city, so he can drive him to the hospital. Waiting for Frank, Shep calls Milly and the hospital back again.
Since sleeping with April, Shep has felt powerless to do anything about his feelings, particularly because April seems so completely closed off to hearing his professions of love. Now, he springs to action. The tough guy persona he cultivated as a boy trying to grow into a man, which served him well under high-pressure situations during the war, can be brought to bear on this situation. He feels competent as he directs Milly, Frank, and the workers at the hospital to do his bidding or give him information.
Themes
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
Frank arrives and Shep drives him to the hospital. Frank looks terrible and it scares Shep. When they arrive, the nurse won’t let Frank in to see April. A doctor speaks to Frank. Shep sits down and thinks that it’s impossible that April is dying: hospitals are places where babies are born and miscarriages are dealt with. Frank tells Shep that he hardly understood what the doctor said to him, but that the fetus was out of her before she arrived at the hospital and that she has lost a lot of blood and is unconscious. Shep says he will go get them some coffees. Frank says he doesn’t need one, but Shep goes off because he has to go to the bathroom. It takes him a long time to go to the restroom and then to find coffee, and when he returns, he can tell that April has died.
Shep feels that his world is a stable place where predictable things happen. Although he is acting brave in the face of an emergency, as if on the battlefield, he cannot conceive of this suburban hospital as a place where death might occur. But Frank, who has guessed that April must have tried to give herself a late-term abortion, realizes that these assumptions (which also guide his understanding of his world) no longer apply. Shep is still following social codes that apply outside of emergencies, and so doesn’t want to say that he needs to urinate, instead saying that he will get them coffees. This hesitance to mention a bodily function means that Frank is left alone for the crushing moment when he learns April has died.
Themes
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Later, Shep can hardly remember what happens over the course of the next few hours. He drives around with Frank in his car and buys him a pint of whiskey. He calls Milly and tells her what happened, then tells her to calm down and not to let on to the children that anything has happened. During the ride, Frank tells Shep that April killed herself. He says she wanted to give herself an abortion the month before when it would have been safe, but he talked her out of it. Franks adds that she was so nice to him that morning. Shep feels he can never know for certain if this is true, or if he himself played any part in April’s death.
Frank realizes that by convincing April not to give herself an abortion earlier in her pregnancy and by saying the previous day that he wished she had aborted the pregnancy, he played a role in her death. On the other hand, he cannot understand the way April treated him this morning. Was she trying to treat him kindly so that he would remember her as kind? Was she merely trying to get rid of him so that she could carry out her plan? Shep feels similarly uncertain about what it meant that April decided to sleep with him.
Themes
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
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Milly thinks she did a good job keeping calm in front of the children, but when Frank and Shep get to the Campbells’ house, Milly feels she is of no help. Shep tells her that Frank said that April killed herself attempting to abort her pregnancy. Milly tells Shep that they can take turns sitting with Frank in the kitchen, but she sits in the living room not daring to bother them. When she finally looks into the kitchen, Shep is asleep at the kitchen table and Frank is gone.
Despite the seriousness of the moment, Milly still feels self-critical about her ability to play the role of a woman. She wants to be nurturing and provide Frank comfort, but she also feels worried that she will not be able to handle it. When Shep falls asleep, Frank leaves the house.
Themes
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Frank looks out of place as he runs through the cheerful, orderly streets of the Revolutionary Hill Estates in desperate grief. As he approaches his house, he pretends for a moment that it was all a nightmare, but then he sees its darkened windows and knows that it really happened. Inside the house, Frank observes that April was very tidy about cleaning up the blood. As he scrubs the remaining blood on the floor, he can hear her voice offering him practical advice for how to take care of it. Frank goes into April’s closet and embraces her clothes, then finds the note she left him. At that moment, Shep arrives, looking for Frank. Frank hides in the closet, only coming out after Shep has left. After that interruption, however, Frank can no longer hear April’s voice.
The sights and sounds of the suburban development convey the sense that death and disaster is impossible. Instead, the houses themselves seem to signify a world filled with happy, prosperous, wholesome families. In his house, Frank hears April’s voice saying soothingly conventional things. She talks to him not about her death or their relationship, but about the practical task of cleaning up the mess. Despite her strong personality in life, April has now become a stereotype of a housewife in Frank’s mind, because this idea of her is the most comforting one to him.
Themes
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
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