`Rabbit Redux` is the second in Updike's quartet of novels chronicling the life and times of America as seen through the eyes of everyman Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Written - as with the other three - at the tale end of one decade (here, the 1960s) and published at the beginning of the next, Redux finds its eponymous anti-hero in suitably chaotic circumstances: his wife has left him for another man, he shacks up with a promiscuous teenage runaway, and her friend, a black radical named Skeeter, moves in with them.
Whereas `Rabbit, Run' was virtually perspiring with dank verisimilitude - all-too queasily human and corporeal - Redux comes across as a kind of maddening metaphorical play. Whereas Rabbit's first adventures concerned intimate, character-driven themes, this second novel is a more representational scenario that reflects the upheaval of the generation. Social dysfunction, free love and black power literally invade Rabbit's smallville suburban address, turning his house into a theatre of the late-1960s psyche.
While Redux doesn't always ring true as a credible study of character, it's air of volatility and hysteria capture the spirit of the period, in which the civil rights movement and the dismantlement of the conservative values of the 1950s were reaching a fever pitch. Whereas `Rabbit, Run' was conspicuously apolitical, Redux is almost all politics, with large sections of the book played out in Rabbit's living room like some kind of deranged allegorical play. Harry Angstrom is still rather passive, buffeted by the events that befall him, but this time he goes along with the trip. Despite losing his job, his house and his wife - albeit temporarily - Rabbit gets a necessary dose of the freedom of the times, hence the redux (from the Latin meaning "brought back, restored") of the title. Profane, provocative and almost pornographic, it is a credit to Updike's writing that this is also intensely imaginative and occasionally beautiful.