Revolutionary Road tells the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a confident young couple living in 1950s Connecticut who believe themselves to be different than their fellow suburbanites in the Revolutionary Hill Estates. The Wheelers become close friends with their neighbors, Milly and Shep Campbell, to whom they seem the perfect couple. In reality the two households share much misery and misfortune.

Frank commutes every day to New York City, to a job at Knox Business Machines that he detests. April, having failed to build a career as an actress, is an unfulfilled housewife who spends her time looking after their two young children, longing to escape the rut they have fallen into and the social confines of their era.

The novel begins with an amateur performance of The Petrified Forest; April has the starring role, but is publicly humiliated. On the way home, Frank and April have a heated argument on the side of the highway, one of many to come.

Seeing a bleak and unpromising future ahead of them, April devises a solution to their dissatisfaction with suburban life: she persuades Frank that they should move to Paris, where he can ‘find’ himself while she supports the family by working as a secretary. However, unknown to her, Frank has already begun to compensate for his miserable marriage through an affair with a work colleague. Although April is thrilled at the prospect of moving to Europe, Frank is unconvinced, and his reluctance grows as their plans proceed. But the planning has brought some respite from their marital problems, so he hides his doubts.

When April discovers she is expecting a third child, and Frank finally and unexpectedly begins to connect with his job after receiving praise from his boss and a promotion, their hopes of a new life in Paris come to an end. Frank confesses his affair, with surprising consequences: April reacts indifferently, declaring she no longer loves him so it doesn’t matter.

Another intense argument ensues, but the next morning Frank is pleasantly surprised to wake to a romantic breakfast and a complete transformation in April’s mood.  But the transformation is a sham: after Frank leaves for work with a smile on his face, April tries to abort their baby. Her amateur attempt goes badly wrong and she dies from the resulting blood loss. It is an unplanned but devastatingly fitting escape from a miserably unfulfilled life.