Reunion, by John Cheever, is a story told through the eyes of a young boy, Charlie, who is recalling a meeting with his father who he hasn’t seen for more than three years. It is set in New York where Charlie’s father lives. He meets up with his father during a stop over between trains.
In the first paragraph we are introduced to Charlie
and his father. Charlie is very much looking forward to meeting
his father who he hasn’t seen since his parents divorced three years before. “He was a stranger to me”, shows that Charlie is anxious about his upcoming meeting with his father. But he then goes on to say “But as soon as I saw him I felt he was my father”. This then implies to the reader that Charlie is a little more relaxed when he sees his father. This sentence is so powerful because of its use of the word ‘father’. The strong connotations, which are related to this word, express the relationship between the two characters.
At this stage of the story we are compelled to feel a little bit sorry for Charlie who has been separated from his father.
Charlie’s father is also introduced in the first paragraph. He, who is never given a name during the story, forms the image in the reader’s mind of a high-flying businessman. Cheever relays this image with the use of formal language during the communications between Charlie and his father, “His secretary wrote to say that he would meet me at the information booth at noon”. This in contrast to the less formal style of writing used when Charlie is involved, “at 12 o’clock sharp I saw him coming”. That last quote also shows that his father is punctual which strengthens the businessman stereotype we have already placed him in.
Early on we are lead to believe that Charlie and his father are happy to see each other and have a good relationship with quotes such as, “I was terribly happy to see him again” and “ Hi Charlie, Hi boy!” But these attitudes towards father and son are short lived.
Towards the end of the first paragraph we begin to get more of an insight into what Charlie’s father is really like. The first example of this is “I’d like to take you up to my club, but it’s in the Sixties, and if you have to catch an early train I guess we’d better get something around here”. In this sentence John Cheever
uses a number of stylistic devices to influences our opinions of Charlie’s father.
Firstly, we notice the tone in which it is written. The reader notices a very snobbish tone when Charlie’s father says “I’d like to take you to MY club, but it’s in the SIXTIES”. This expresses this tone than shows that he disapproves of this area, which is again noticeable in the way he continues, “I guess we’d better get something around here”.
At this very early stage it is very evident that the father is trying to impress Charlie. This becomes more noticeable in the following paragraphs as he shows off to Charlie in the restaurants. They visit four restaurants and in all of the Charlies father shouts out, abuses and claps at the waiters. This is another example of his father’s snobbish behaviour. He thinks himself better than everyone else and expects others to do what he wants, when he wants. Naturally, the waiters refuse and Charlie and his father end up being chucked out of every restaurant.
As Charlie and his father are chucked out of restaurant after restaurant, our attitudes towards the characters change. The reader begins to feel sorry for poor Charlie and begin to show resent towards his father for ruining the time Charlie is spending with him.
John Cheever develops these characters very well with the use of formal and non-formal language in a simple form. The development of the characters may be bias though, as the whole story is told from Charlie’s point of view. But this also allows us to see Charlie’s attitude towards his father.
As in any father/son relationship it is hard for the son to totally hate his father, his own blood. Instead it is seen that Charlie is more disappointed than anything. All he wanted to do was have a nice lunch with his father, but due to his father’s boisterous attempts to impress him, it is all ruined. Charlie’s disappointment of the last memory of his father is summed up in the last three sentences ‘I have to go now, Daddy’ I said. ‘It’s late’ “Now, just wait a second, sonny,” he said. “Just wait a second. I want to get a rise out of this chap.”
‘Goodbye, Daddy,’ I said, and I went down the stairs and got my train, and that was the last time I saw my father.