Suburban life in the 1950s was ideal, but not ideal for the women. Women were continuously looked at as the typical suburban housewife. In Richard Yates’ novel, Revolutionary Road, we are given the chance to see the dynamics of the Wheeler family and of those around them. Through the use of theme, tone and major symbolism in the novel, we are shown the perspective of gender roles in the 1950s. The author shows the reader the struggles of strict gender roles and how the protagonist of the story will do just about anything to escape from it.
The novel begins with the protagonist, April Wheeler, portraying Gabrielle in an amateur-theatre production of the play, The Petrified Forest. The play ends up being a total disaster and leaves April devastated, leaving her disconnected from Frank, her husband, and her neighbors, Milly and Shep Campbell afterwards. The play, The Petrified Forest, is a disastrous love story of a man who decides to have himself die to keep the women he loves out of a life of misery. In the end of The Petrified Forest, Gabrielle is able to escape from her horrible lifestyle and fulfill her dreams; April was never able to do that.
This play, which is the first part of the novel, symbolizes what is yet to occur—a disastrous love story between April and Frank Wheeler. After the play, April and Frank get into an argument in the car, leading April to walk off and telling Frank he’s, “got [her] safely in a trap” (Yates, 37). April is felt as if she is in a trap because of the role of housewife she is automatically placed in. She wants to be more than a woman who stays home, washes the dishes and takes care of the children, she wants to explore and be free, something that the 1950s gender roles are limiting her to not being able to do.
Suburbia in the fifties—a lifestyle, which seemed perfect on the outside, but on the inside, consisted of an extremely dull lifestyle which sentenced men to “the dullest job you can possibly imagine” (Yates, 16) and women to the silence of housework. Because Frank is stuck in this meaningless job he needs to constantly be reminded of how much of a man and how great he is. As soon as he walks through the door, April is there to greet him saying, “I missed you all day” (Yates, 141). April conforms into her feminine and housewife gender role to cater to the man as soon as he gets home. Frank’s masculinity is constantly being affirmed as even he creates thoughts in his head of perfect scenarios that could occur to make himself feel as if he has a perfect family. Frank creates stories in his head to make himself look important in his family such as when he imagined “himself rushing home to swing his children laughing in the air…chatter through dinner with his wife…sitting spellbound in pride and then rising to join a thunderous ovation” (Yates, 16). Frank creates these scenarios in his head and also recreates incidents to justify his actions. When Frank is outside laying the stone path he thought he saw...