Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Abigail Cheever


Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road opens, appropriately, with the “final dying sounds” of the Laurel Players’ dress rehearsal of The Petrified Forest. The suburban community theater is preparing for its inaugural show, and from these opening words, it is clear that this is a novel of performance—of failed performance, specifically. Even though the Players have little theatrical experience, both they and the community have allowed themselves to begin to believe in the “brave idea” of the show (7), and they “let the movement of the play come and carry them and break like a wave” (6). Revolutionary Road is populated by characters who, like the Laurel Players, rely on rote behaviors and staged actions to guide them through life. Indeed, the idea of performativity, or the ongoing effort to act in the manner of a social type, is a central theme of the novel, as the characters attempt to act as “the people they most wish to be” (Cheever 194). From the pimply-faced stagehand at the Players’ opening night, to the brilliantly insane mathematician on leave from the asylum, and the earnest, sour-smelling housewife next door, every character in Revolutionary Road continuously acts out various ‘selves,’ and none more so than the novel’s central characters, Frank and April Wheeler.