This book reinforces the negative stereotype of human males as being selfish sex-crazed narcissists who possess no feelings of empathy or loyalty for their female companions. The main character demonstrates the ultimate in immaturity and lack of responsible behavior. The women in the story show plenty of immaturity also, but since I'm male I'll remain politically correct and confine myself to criticism of the male behavior. Since the book follows a guy who is preoccupied with sex it follows that it is filled with descriptions of sexual encounters that are way too explicit for me.
So is there any social redeeming value to this book? John Updike certainly has a way with words. (See quotation below.) I suspect that the story being told is actually a pretty realistic description of the lives of some people. The story contains a tragedy near the end that adds some poignancy to the plot and provides sufficient heft to the novel to allow it to be called a classic literary novel. Overall this book is a portrait of a young man running away from any personal relationship that might require some responsibility and loyalty on his part. Therefore, the nickname Rabbit is an appropriately descriptive tag for this character.
The following is an example of John Updike's writing where he describes a vivid picture using less than the proverbial thousand words:"A woman once of some height, she is bent small, and the lingering strands of black look dirty in her white hair. She carries a cane, but in forgetfulness, perhaps, hangs it over her forearm and totters along with it dangling loose like an outlandish bracelet. Her method of gripping her gardener is this: he crooks his right arm, pointing his elbow toward her shoulder, and she shakily brings her left forearm up within his and bears down heavily on his wrist with her lumpish freckled fingers. Her hold is like that of a vine to a wall; one good pull will destroy it, but otherwise it will survive all weathers."
One curious observation about the character Rabbit is that he doesn't smoke or drink, at least not very much. I usually assume anybody with such blatant lack of integrity to be a chain smoking alcoholic. John Updike provides a believable exception to that sort of stereotype.