Howard often turns his hearing aid off to avoid listening to his wife Helen talk. Although this can seem like a callous gesture, the novel suggests that it is emblematic of the kind of self-protection necessary to a working marriage. Unlike the Wheelers, who fight bitterly over everything, the Givingses live their lives in close proximity but without sharing much. Helen works eighteen-hour days to avoid too much coexistence with her husband, and during much of the time they are together, Howard is not listening. While this arrangement doesn’t seem to make either of them very happy or fulfilled, the novel suggests that this kind of peaceful, separate coexistence may be the best that can be hoped for in a marriage.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Howard’s Hearing Aid appears in Revolutionary Road. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 3
Part 3, Chapter 9