Exposing Pain in The Enormous Radio

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Exposing Pain in The Enormous Radio

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.

Works Cited

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 & Other Essays. Ed. Connie Bellamy Virginia Beach, Virginia, 1996. 55-58.

Smith, TaVeta. "The Perfect Facade." Ode to Friendship & Other Essays. Ed. Connie Bellamy Virginia Beach, Virginia, 1996. 58-59.

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