The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Yates Book Portrays 60s Drama

3 min read

By Virginia Scott

As we enter tax season, the demise of hockey and football season, another season is right around the corner; Academy Award season. Revolutionary Road, the movie, is up for three nominations, Best Supporting Actor, Art Direction, and Costume Design. It is an adapted screenplay because it was first written as a novel of the same name by Richard Yates set in the early ‘60s. The early ‘60s is a time most college students only remember reading about or seeing movies regarding the era. It has a beautiful veneer across it, a façade that seems to crumble, especially in Yates’ novel.
The book and movie are about a couple, Frank and April, who have two young children and cannot believe what they have become. They thought themselves unique, exceptional to their everyday surroundings, friends, and humdrum occupations. However, both come to realize how homogenous they really are.
This is something that is played throughout the book and, at times, seems like maybe they are overcoming their fear and emerging to be someone that really is greater, more courageous than everyone else. April decides Frank deserves better than Middle America and talks Frank into moving to Europe. However, the latter half of the book is about each spouse manipulating and playing mind games (whether it is intentional or not) with each other. They end up not pursuing Europe when April gets pregnant with a baby; April wants to have an abortion and Frank continues to persuade her to keep the baby.
Things take a downward spiral as Frank begins an affair with the secretary at his “horridly boring” job and April sleeps with Shep, Milly’s husband, the couple’s only friends. To agitate matters more, their neighbor and realtor, Mrs. Givings, brings her insane and aggressive son from the local insane asylum, John, over on particular weekends. April never really had a relationship with her parents and John’s tedious relationship with his now dead parents is a common denominator of the two and provides much internal and external strife between them. John Givings is also a background catalyst when they ponder if he is really insane, simply telling the truth, or saying too much. This becomes the vehicle of the couple’s downfall, which results in an unintentional suicide and manslaughter.
This book is intense in the right spots, creates believable and complete characters, even outlying characters that do not stay present in the plot. Yates’ skill at immersing the reader into the lives of each character is really the strength of the novel and will lead the audiences of the movie to enjoy them and commiserate with them. Thematically, Revolutionary Road does not bring anything new to the scene; however it is so well written that it promotes the idea that this probably did happen in the sixties. The realistic tone Yates’ uses with each character is magnificent and creates an understanding and bond with the characters; it is mostly written from Frank’s point of view, but also enters April, Mrs. Givings, Shep, and Milly.
I picked this novel up in an airport while waiting for a flight over winter break. I was actually looking for a more popular novel, but I am much happier I decided to go on a whim and pick Yates’ book instead. At the end of the book’s 355 pages, each reader will most likely feel a loss, despite the main characters missteps and blunders; they are us in the 1960s, trapped in a world of monotony and pastel colors.