In John Cheever’s short story, “The Enormous Radio,” Jim and Irene Westcott are presented as average, middle-class Americans with hopes and dreams just like everyone else. They are described as “the kind of people who seem to strike that satisfactory average of income, endeavor, and respectability” (Cheever 817). Jim and Irene thought they were the epitome of the perfect American family that was free from trouble and worry. The only way that they differed from their friends and neighbors was a deep passion for serious music. This passion, through the enormous radio, brought to their attention the realization that they had just as many problems as the next family. Their reaction to the radio argues the fact that they were not perfect and did not have a worry-free life.
The first sign that the radio was going to cause a problem was its physical appearance. Irene abhorred the radio: “She was struck at once with the physical ugliness of the large gumwood cabinet” (Cheever 817). The radio stuck out like a sore thumb in Irene’s perfectly arranged living room. The radio’s appearance resembled what it would eventually do, “bring a new ugliness into the perfectly arranged lives of the Westcotts” (Giordano 56).
When the Westcotts first realize that they had possession of an eavesdropping machine, Irene becomes extremely paranoid about whether or not they are being overheard too, like they have something to hide. Irene quickly becomes obsessed with listening to others’ conversations, as Nathan Giordano points out “it was like tuning into a soap opera on television” (56). The Westcotts would stay up late at night to listen to others’ conversations; some nights they went to bed “weak wit…
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…indeed have problems and that turning a blind eye to her problems doesn’t help solve them” (Smith 59). The enormous radio was a reality check for Irene. It was a lesson that all she can do is be the best person she can and that denial only represses guilt for a short time. Whether Irene understands this is uncertain, but the reader finally realizes that even the “average American family” may have problems that must be worked through, not forgotten.
Cheever, John. “The Enormous Radio.” The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 817-824.
Giordano, Nathan. “Illusions, Delusions.” Ode to Friendship
Old Man and Old Woman as Marital Guide
Old Man and Old Woman as Marital Guide
“Old Man and Old Woman,” a retelling of a Native American myth by Chewing Blackbones, a Blackfoot Indian, should serve as a lesson to all couples in how a good relationship works. In today’s society there is a great need for people to understand how to make their relationships successful. As the divorce rate gets higher every year; small children have begun to think that getting a divorce is something that is normal and to be expected. This story shows how to work through problems with a give-and-take approach where you make compromises, yet still stand up for yourself when you believe your convictions cannot be compromised.
The Old Man and Old Woman agree on certain rules from the beginning. It is important for couples to agree on certain points when they begin a relationship. Problems might arise later if certain ideals and standards for behavior are not established from the onset. The man and woman in the story agree that the man will have the first say in all decisions and the woman the second. For couples in today’s society the ideals that are established are more likely have something to do with religion, the number of children a couple wishes to have, or who should work in the family. The establishment of these principles will help couples to stay together longer and also be happier.
While the Old Man and Old Woman agreed, from the beginning, that the man should have first say and the woman the second, they both had equal input into decisions. When they were discussing the duty of tanning the hides, the man said “the women will have the duty . . . they will rub the animals’ brains on the hides to make them soft and scrape them with scraping tools. All this they will do very quickly, for it will not be hard work” (539). The woman did not completely agree with the man’s ideas about how this should be done. The woman suggested, “they must tan hides in the way you say; but it must be very hard work, so that good workers may be found out” (539). The Old Man and Old Woman used compromise in making this decision. While the woman had the final say, she did agree to part of the man’s original idea, while also adding some input of her own.