Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, is about a 1950’s middle class suburban neighborhood and the disillusionment many Americans were feeling at the time. On the outside, Frank and April Wheeler’s life seems to be perfect. However, as the novel progresses we get the real story.
Like the performance of The Petrified Forest falls apart so does April and Frank’s life. It’s no accident that Yates starts the novel with a performance, which is a main theme seen throughout the novel. The irony is that Yates uses The Petrified Forest performance to show what’s really going on in the lives of Frank and April Weaver and the other people in their neighborhood.
Frank and April are petrified by their own limited views of who they assume each other to be. They can’t see themselves or anyone else in an honest true light. By starting the novel with a dress rehearsal Yates reveals the behavior of most of the residents in the Revolutionary Road Estates. They seem to be playing parts in a dress rehearsal of life, instead of really living life.
Disillusioned young wives and sly old reprobates, the trailer for The Petrified Forest, 1936
“Anything you’d read, he’d read. And when he read something, he never forgot it.” Interview with Monica Yates, Richard Yates’s daughter, Kristy Davis, Oprah Magazine
“I think it probably is the hardest and loneliest profession in the world, this crazy, obsessive business of trying to be a good writer. None of us ever knows how much time he has left, or how well he’ll be able to use that time, or whether, even if he does use his time well, his work will ever withstand and survive the terrible, inexorable indifference of time itself.” Interview, Geoffrey Clark and DeWitt Henry, Ploughshares