A Feminist Reading of Cheever’s The Five-Forty-Eight

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A Feminist Reading of The Five-Forty-Eight

The short story "The Five-Forty-Eight" by John Cheever concerns the issue of a woman scorned by the inhumane treatment she has received by men, most notably that of Blake, whose oppression serves as the turning point in her life. This generalization is often the focus of a feminist criticism. Feminists believe that women should have equal rights as men, and they seek to "correct or supplement what they regard as a predominantly male-dominated critical perspective with a feminist consciousness" (Meyer 2014). In this short story, using a feminist consciousness to read the text helps to understand the reasoning behind Miss Dent's need to defeat the idea that males dominate over women. Miss Dent, who has been trodden on for so long, finally takes action against Blake who represents all of the men in her life who have mistreated her.

Miss Dent is an insecure woman who has been abused and mistreated her whole life, especially by Blake. The literary critic Patrick Meanor says that "the icy and detached Mr. Blake has absolutely no natural feelings for others, especially for pathetic, wounded souls such as Miss Dent, a name that symbolizes her damaged emotional condition" (92) Critics characterize Blake as the lowest of men because of the inhumane way he treats women. The worst example of Blake's maltreatment of Miss Dent is the scene in which the two sleep together in Miss Dent's apartment. Miss Dent leaves to put something more comfortable on while Blake urges her on because "that was, after all, what he had come for" (81). Blake purposely accompanies Miss Dent into her home just to have sex with her. Under the impression that Blake has a genuine interest in her, Miss Dent allows Blak...

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...like before when Miss Dent had no self-esteem or confidence, now she has some control over her life and is a stronger person for it.

In "The Five-Forty-Eight," Miss Dent has prevailed in her attempt to set right the wrongs done to her and other women by men like Blake. Through a feminist's view, women in history have been considered inferior to men. Blake assumes that because he is a man, he has the right to abuse women and take advantage of them. Miss Dent does not let herself become another victim, rather she successfully takes control of her life.

Works Cited

Cheever, John. "The Five-Forty-Eight" An Introduction to Fiction (7th edition), eds. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia, Longman, 1999

Meanor, Patrick. John Cheever Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1995.

Meyer, Liz. Feminist Consciousness and Feminist Research. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.
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