Frank and April Wheeler were living the 1950s American dream. Frank had a steady - if unfulfilling - job in New York City, April was the attractive wife he always wanted, and they owned a large home in a quiet neighborhood in suburban New Jersey.
But, like nearly all their neighbors, the Wheelers were far from happy.
They were bored suburbanites, working dead-end jobs, in loveless marriages, talking about their dreams.
They talked of how they didn't belong - of how they were so much better than the rest of the sheep who surrendered to the conformity of the world. But they take no action to correct their circumstances. The fact is that they are not as much "better" as they believe.
April suggests that the Wheelers move to Paris and start a new life, so that Frank can explore his potential. But Frank is not interested in his potential or in self-exploration. He likes the low expectations that come with his job. And, when he is given an opportunity at a promotion, he leaps at the chance.
Frank and April are self-aware enough to believe they are superior to their neighbors and co-workers, but not self-aware enough to realize they are not. They either don't know themselves or they refuse to see themselves.
They are under the illusion that their problems are easily fixable - move to Paris; get a promotion; have an affair. New flash: They are not.
Instead they continue their pretentious life of drunken lunches and adultery and deluding themselves that they are destined for more. No one takes responsibility for his or her own actions, choosing instead to blame others or the expectations of society.
The only honest person in the book is John Givings, a son of the Wheelers' neighbors, who has been literally certified insane and institutionalized. But John is so shockingly rude that it's difficult for anyone to listen to him or to take him seriously.
Inevitably, the story ends in tragedy, with no lessons learned and everyone continuing to face their troubles alone.
Don't read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates to feel good about yourself. Read it as a warning about buying too much into the American dream. The sad part is how relevant this warning feels today.