In the months following April’s death, Shep listens to Milly describe what happened many times. He feels annoyed at the way Milly seems to get some pleasure out of the dramatic story. This is especially distasteful to him when he listens to her tell the story to Nancy and Warren Brace, the couple who have moved into the Wheelers’ home.
In the same way that Milly told the Wheelers about John Givings’s institutionalization, she sensationalizes the story of what happened to April Wheeler. For Shep, April was special, and he dislikes hearing how Milly seems to use her death as conversational material.
Milly tells the Braces that they didn’t know where Frank was until the next afternoon at 2 PM. Meanwhile, Milly had continued to pretend to Jennifer and Michael that nothing was wrong. Frank then came to the Campbells’ house after going to the hospital to sign papers. He told the Campbells that he had called his brother in Pittsfield, who would come down and help. Then Frank took the children out to break the news to them. After that, the children had gone to live in Pittsfield with Frank’s brother, while Frank had moved to the city, going up to see them on the weekends. Milly says Frank’s brother and his wife are wonderful people, although they are much older.
Frank used his children to bind April to him and keep her from leaving him. With her gone, he feels no real connection to them and sends them to be raised by an uncle. This is darkly ironic, as it combines the worst aspects of both April’s and Frank’s upbringings. He leaves his children to be raised by a much older couple who didn’t plan on having children (as his parents did) and he himself essentially abandons them (as April’s parents did). It seems likely that Michael and Jennifer will await Frank’s visits with the same eagerness that April once awaited her own parents’ visits, and the cycle of unhealthiness continues in a new generation.
Milly tells the Braces that she and Shep had not seen Frank again until he came back for the sale of the house. Frank told them then that he had found a note from April that night which kept him from killing himself. Milly says Frank had lost a lot of weight and had said that analysis was helping him. Milly says Frank seemed to be moving on courageously—he is now working for Bart Pollock Associates. Warren Brace says that this is an interesting new company working on industrial public relations in the electronics field. Shep goes into the kitchen to refill the drinks, then goes out into the backyard. He angrily thinks to himself that Frank would never have had the guts to kill himself. Shep thinks back on the way Frank talked only about his stupid job and his analyst, describing working through issues he had with his father.
With April gone, Frank has also given up pretending he doesn’t find corporate work fulfilling. He has gone to therapy himself to confront his feelings about his father, which also kept him from admitting that he was interested in the work he did at Knox. Frank is actually talented at what he does and was only held back by the bored posture he took for many years to keep April’s respect and rebel against his father’s values. Shep still subscribes to the cultural ideals that Frank had only pretended to believe in. Although April never realized it about him, Shep shared her values more than Frank ever did.
Smelling the spring air, Shep is reminded of April on the stage during The Petrified Forest. He begins to cry, then stops himself and goes inside. Milly turns to him and says that this terrible experience had brought her and Shep closer together. Shep reflects that this is true. Although he still sees Milly as foolish, he can depend on her to stay by his side, alive.
Helen Givings had also 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 because he is too destructive. She and Howard reduce the frequency of their visits to once a month. When John asks about the Wheelers, they lie to him. Helen buys a puppy and takes great delight in training him. After selling the Wheelers’ house, she feels ready to put the Wheelers behind her. She is busy with work and finds the restful evenings in her comfortable house satisfying.
Although the things John said to the Wheelers about their marriage and future baby were unkind, they were not insane. Yet Helen, with the support of society, decides that permanent confinement in a mental institution should be the result of breaking taboos and speaking inconvenient truths. Helen then moves on from her son, and finds the puppy she adopts to be a much easier more gratifying project than her own child.
One night in May, Helen tells Howard that the Braces are the first really nice people she has ever found to live on the house on Revolutionary Road. She explains that the Wheelers were a bit neurotic for her taste. Although she never emphasized this, they were difficult to deal with and they let the house depreciate. Frank ruined the lawn by trying to build a stone path. Helen had also found a box of sedum plantings, which she collected for them, in a corner in the cellar, and she felt appalled that they would treat a living thing in that way. Howard Givings hears nothing, however, because he has turned his hearing aid off.
Although Helen saw the Wheelers as similar to her in class background, she now wants to forget she ever knew them. Although she has condemned her son to an endless term in a mental institution, she hypocritically criticizes the Wheelers for their treatment of the plant she got them. For Helen, not taking care of the plant shows that they did not share her values – either because they were mentally ill or not her cultural equals. While Helen is talking through her feelings about this, Howard has tuned her out completely, preserving their harmonious coexistence by ignoring his wife entirely, and closing the book with a last depressing image of marriage.