That 50s Meme

December 10, 2012 |  by

In Revolutionary Road, when the Wheelers decide to move to Paris, they unhook from the meme of the 1950s. Frank’s co-workers and their friends think they’re crazy. But the Wheelers feel free.

They’ve stepped out of the meme—the 1950s meme that says: Play your part. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary. Suppress.

For a brief moment, they’re shining again.

But the 50s meme pulls them back—Frank gets a promotion and April gets pregnant. When April accuses Frank of backing down on Paris, it’s no longer Frank speaking, but the meme speaking through him.

April: “Won’t you be wasting your life, toiling away at a job you find ridiculous?”
Frank: “I support you, don’t I? I pay for this house, I work ten hours a day at a job I can’t stand!”
April: “You don’t have to.”
Frank: “Bullshit!”

There’s no bad guy here, no villain. But there is a choice—between how Frank and April really want to live, and how the meme of the 50s wants them to live. When Frank “chooses” the meme, the Wheelers lose their spark.

What’s left is the suppression of the 50s. In the end, after Frank Wheeler leaves for the city, neighbor Shep Campbell turns to his wife and says, “I don’t want to talk about the Wheelers anymore.”

“Ok, we don’t have to,” she replies.


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