By Richard Yates
“I love you when you’re nice.” April Wheeler says this to her husband Frank and it becomes a defining moment for the couple. This single line gives the reader an intimate look at these two characters and how they cling to each while trying to break free at the same time.
April and Frank are the perfect example of a happy young couple, or at least that’s the image they project to friends and neighbors. They are young, beautiful, and living what can be thought of as a happy life in the suburbs of Connecticut. Frank works a job he simply describes as boring and does his best not to talk about if at all possible. In fact, he secretly finds irony in the knowledge that his father also worked for the same company, something he has only ever mentioned to his wife.
April spends her days searching for her true self and yearning for a different life. She and Frank talk constantly of the draining existence that is the suburbs and how they will never live to their full potential and will die inside trying to live a dream that is not their own. They want out and it’s April that finally concocts a plan to get them out — by moving to France. They begin making plans and life takes on a new excitement for them. They look forward to leaving behind the drudgery of their lives. It’s only when circumstances change do their lives take on the stark reality of everyday life they attempt to avoid each and every day.
Yates writes in such a way that readers feel as if they are these people and what they are feeling and experiencing is so real that you want to recoil at the rawness of it all. You feel the strain in the marriage, the love they do have for one another at certain times, and the embarrassment they feel. There is also the sheer realization that what these two characters are facing are questions we all have about our own lives. They are sad people, wonderful people, and very much real people.
You see the falling apart of two people and the life they have tried to cobble together in this book. The hopes and dreams of two people shattered, yet, there is also an incredible hopefulness especially when they are planning their future but you know all of it is really just an exercise in escapism for these two people who are just so very unhappy and disappointed with how their lives have turned out. You want to root for them but you know they are going to only remain disgusted with not only each other but everyone in their lives.
Revolutionary Road is a great book for the simple reason that Yates makes us April and Frank. He pushes us to examine our needs, wants, and dreams and do it in such a way that makes you want to run away to France to make yourself over. You hate him for making you feel so intensely, not only for these two characters, but for the very real way he is going to make you examine your life.