Madeleine and I read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates for our book club in March. We thought it would be a good idea to read the book and then see the movie, but once we finished the book no one was up for the film. We didn’t expect it to be happy, but we also didn’t expect it to be so depressing either.
We believed Revolutionary Road would give us insight into suburban life in the 1950s, and we would be able to talk about the roles men and women felt compelled to assume in that era. We looked forward to a discussion and comparison of how those roles differed today as well as ways they may still be the same.
Reading the book, however, we were each struck by how the story was more about a lack of maturity, morality, and inner fortitude of the characters themselves than it was about the time they lived in. From the beginning April and Frank seemed to have no interest in putting work into forming a lasting relationship and marriage with children. It was as though they never transformed from thinking only of themselves when they were single, to thinking of the needs of each other and especially of their children. The children in the story were mostly forgotten and emotionally neglected.
Frank deciding to have an affair summed up so many of the character flaws we saw in both of them. He had an affair because he could. Why not, he reasoned. And that’s where we see a difference with someone who is more mature and committed to a marriage.
While we did have a great discussion about character, we thought Frank and April would have made the similar poor choices whichever era they lived in, because they were both very self-focsed. Maybe our error was assuming it was a story more about the times the characters lived in than the characters themselves. Either way, we won’t be seeing the movie.