Revolutionary Road


Richard Yates

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Themes and Colors
Marriage and Selfhood Theme Icon
Manhood and Womanhood Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology Theme Icon
Class, Taste, and Status Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Revolutionary Road, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Marriage and Selfhood

Revolutionary Road examines the way codependence can turn a disappointing marriage into a life-destroying one. For Frank and April Wheeler, the novel’s protagonists, the way their spouse reflects on them and reflects them back to themselves defines how they understand themselves. For April, feeling that an exceptionally intelligent and promising man loves her is essential to her sense of self. She sees Frank less as an individual, and more as an archetype—the kind of…

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Manhood and Womanhood

Rigid 1950s gender expectations threaten the happiness of all the characters in Revolutionary Road, both male and female. The pressures and stereotypes of masculinity instill insecurities in men that lead to empty posturing, manipulation, and self-denial. These men live lives they don’t want and are cruel to women to bolster their own self-esteem. And while Yates shows the tragedy of male gender roles, his portrait of gender expectations for women is much more dire…

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Parents and Children

Revolutionary Road portrays parents and children as locked in an imbalanced and damaging relationship. Adult characters spend their lives alternately rebelling against and seeking to fulfill their parents’ wishes for them. On the other hand, these same characters feel disappointment and disconnection when it comes to their own children. Parents, in Yates’s portrayal, are not as deeply impacted by their children as their children are by them, and they generally either neglect or try to…

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Conformity, Mental Illness, and Psychology

Revolutionary Road is set during an era when an intense pressure to conform caused many people to feel depressed and inadequate. Instead of helping the mentally ill cope with a conformist society, however, the profession of psychology was often used to pressure people to stifle their individual desires and submit to social norms. The novel suggests that the fear of being stigmatized for being different often stops people – particularly women – from pursuing the…

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Class, Taste, and Status

Revolutionary Road takes place during a period after World War II when the American economy was booming and millions of Americans who grew up in poverty during the Depression were joining the middle class. Yet even with money-making opportunities being so plentiful, the novel’s characters are not content with run-of-the-mill success, and they seek other ways to prove their worth and cement their status. For many, this status became dependent on showing “good taste.” Having…

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