“Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates was first published in 1961 but the solemn truth about life which it divulges still reverberates within the walls of each family house. So brilliant in its honest attempt to depict the dreadfulness of all human relationships, it has also been turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I have not seen the cinema production yet, but I can promise you that the novel would revolutionize your perspective. It is such a genuine portrayal of the purgatory of matrimony.
Frank and April Wheeler appear to be the perfect couple in the bright 1950s. They are smart, fun, open-minded and awfully in love. But the glossy exterior of their life is grossly misleading. As all other married people, forced together by adventitious circumstances, they have waged a myriad of skeletons in the closet of their immaculate suburban house on Revolutionary Road. Yet, a delusion can survive only so long. After a sordid fight in the middle of the road, at the dead of the night, they come to the realization that all they have been sweeping so cautiously under the carpet for the last 6 years has now become a cause of calamity. . Their consummate image of love, matrimony and amity is irrevocably shattered. In long silences and blazing arguments, Frank and April drift apart and are impelled to go to drastic measures to preserve their integrity.
Unlike all the other novels which portray affability and relationships, “Revolutionary Road” didn’t begin happily only to diverge into tragedy later on. It was solemn from the very first chapter till the end and even the sporadic elements of bliss that stole their way into the Wheeler’s life were marked with spuriousness. What made the novel poignant the universal truth that loomed in every action and decision of its characters. It was scintillating to read about the absolutely drab, appalling side of human nature: the failed expectations, the unrealized aspirations, the helplessness of each individual and the meretriciousness of one’s alter ego. Richard Yates is the first person I have met who has dared to acknowledge the fallacy of marriage, friendship and camaraderie so simply.
At some level I have always sensed the falsehood of all interactions, yet simultaneously I continually harbored the flickering undying hope that there are few relations which transcend the pettiness of our ephemeral nature. However, the suburban nightmare is diffusing in our urban lives as well. There is no complete accomplishment of the notion of the American dream. Instead of liberating and inspiring people, it binds them to the fetters of social conventions and anachronistic stereotypes. Smiling, being polite, staying in one’s good graces, going out and keeping up the ever so fake tone of conversation – those are necessities preliminary for our survival and a guaranteed participation in the act of a decent, respectable society. Our innate need to be accepted and approved upon lands us the lead role in that abysmal stage production.
The only people who peek behind the decorum are deemed as irrational and even insane as so often proves the case in literature (“Hamlet”, “Don Quixote” etc.). It is but treacherous, however, to believe that our reality differs at all from the apocryphal world. We are also stuck in a nightmarish existence feeling that our life passes by too quickly in a perpetual fear that we will never rise to the wisdom and vigor of the golden people. A fear that is well based. For we will not become the images we bear of ourselves unless we halt the pretense that we are happy and satisfied with our presence. We have to concede the awful truth to be able to live with ourselves uncompromisingly, and perhaps alter our final destination. We have to strive infinitely so as not to end up as stereotypes.