The Enormous Lie Exposed in The Enormous Radio

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The Enormous Lie Exposed in The Enormous Radio John Cheever’s "The Enormous Radio" begins with the Westcotts appearing like the perfect "all-American" family. Cheever describes them as "the kind of people who seem to strike that satisfactory average of income, endeavor, and respectability" (Cheever 817). What is ironic about this story is the Westcotts are far from being the "perfect family," and the community they try to conform to is just as flawed as the Westcotts themselves. A way the Westcotts try to conform to their society is by keeping secret the fact that they listen to the radio and attend musical events. This is because these activities were not something members of their community did, much less talked about. The reader knows this because Cheever says the "Westcotts differed from their friends, their classmates, and their neighbors only in an interest in music. They went to a great many concerts although they never mentioned this to anyone" (817). A particular instance that shows the Westcotts aren’t the "perfect family" and the society they try to conform to is just as imperfect, is the fight between the Osborns. This shows the Westcotts’ community is flawed because Mr. Osborn is overheard being an abusive husband. Irene tells Jim: "Mr. Osborn’s beating his wife! They’ve been quarreling, and now he’s hitting her" (822). This incident also causes the Westcotts to question the "perfection" of their own marriage, and Jim and Irene end up having a disagreement about dishonesty. And it is widely accepted that dishonesty and physical abuse are not qualities of a "perfect" marriage. Another way it is shown that the Westcotts are not flawless is when Jim makes his enraged speech to Irene. This speech entails how he’s "sick" of her addiction to the radio and disgusted about her stealing jewelry and money from her sister and about the nonchalant manner in which she went to have an abortion (824). Even her coat is symbolic in showing the true nature of the Westcotts. Irene’s coat was "of fitch skins, dyed to resemble mink" (817). The fact that the coat was dyed to resemble something of higher status than it really was can be used as a metaphor to describe the Westcotts’ nature: they were one way when presenting themselves to society (high class and socially conscientious, like the coat and the Westcotts’ marriage both appeared), and another way when they were in the privacy of their own home (not well made, like the coat and how their marriage really was).
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