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The Symbolic Meaning of the Radio in The Enormous Radio

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The Symbolic Meaning of the Radio in The Enormous Radio  

    Many authors use the personification of inanimate objects to symbolize the feelings and expressions of their characters. One example of this is in John Cheever’s short story, "The Enormous Radio." Although critics argue that the characteristics of the radio are the opposite of those of Jim and Irene Westcott, the radio actually reflects the couple’s life.

Even though in the beginning of the story the Westcotts’ old radio is outdated and constantly malfunctioning, it has the same innocence and simplicity as the couple. The radio, being "an old instrument" (817), and the couple, resembling "statistical reports in college alumni bulletins" (817), are both average and uncomplicated. Neither Jim nor Irene "understood the mechanics of the radio" (817), just as the radio, a machine, did not understand the human music and language it transmitted. Eventually the couple’s life begins to fall apart. This happens as the old radio get worse and finally "the music [from the radio] faded away all together" (817).

When the ...

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