Instead of sensation or epiphany, Updike offers in this third installment of his Rabbit tetralogy, the lived experience of a Toyota salesman in 1979, who has become rich because of his wife, who is struggling against the decay of age, who feels constantly threatened by a sullen son, and who reads Consumer Reports with a seriousness devoted to the Bible in an earlier age.
The last trait is a clue to the extraordinary nature of ordinary Harry. Despite his moral failings, his perceptual denseness, his linguistic crudities, he is immensely attractive, to readers and women, because of his great hope for life. This hope, so Protestant in spirit, is satirized in the zestful comical scenes of Harry's speculations in gold and silver. It is also castigated in the plot involving Ruth, a past lover, and her daughter, both of whom Harry abandoned. The meeting between Ruth and Harry is one of the most poignant scenes in my reading.
Against death, necessity and boredom, however, this hope lifts Harry to some greater place. Sullied, doubtful, compromised, this may be the only kind of transcendence possible in our postmodern age, but its smallness only makes it more to be cherished.