Hidden Truths In The Enormous Radio

864 words - 3 pages

Hidden Truths in The Enormous Radio  

   John Cheever’s "The Enormous Radio" represents the enormous amount of hidden truths in American society of the 1940s. The problems with society during this time were hidden behind a facade of goodness; however, this false innocence becomes visible through the radio owned by the Westcotts. The radio causes the Westcotts to evolve from an innocent, naive pair who believe that everything they see is real, into individuals who realize that appearances are deceiving.

Cheever develops the motif of innocence by details like Irene’s "wide, fine forehead upon which nothing at all had been written" (817). Cheever also includes the fact that Irene "wore a coat of fitch skins dyed to resemble mink" (817). This is a very dishonest, not innocent, clue about the Westcott’s status. Jim’s youthfulness also represents innocence: Cheever states that "he dressed in the clothes his class had worn at Andover, and his manner was earnest, vehement and intentionally naive" (817). These innocent appearances will be recognized and reflected upon once the radio is delivered to the house.

The radio, an appropriately ugly instrument, looks "like an aggressive intruder" (817). Kendle Burton concludes from this statement that "To Irene, it is a Satanic invader of the Westcott’s world of apparent innocence" (128). Cheever writes, "The powerful and ugly instrument, with its mistaken sensitivity to discord, was more than she could hope to master" (818). This refers to the way that Irene tunes out the ugliness in her own life. Jim also tries to ignore these appearances by simply tuning them out. He explains to Irene that she does not have to listen to the radio. She can turn it off. Jim is explaining that they can pretend to be average. They can pretend that the mink coat is real and that they are innocent. However, hidden problems arise when they take their blindfolds off and see reality.

As the problems of their neighbors are broadcast into the Westcott’s living room, the weather outside begins to reflect the climate inside: "There were hundreds of clouds in the sky, as though the south wind had broken the winter into pieces and were blowing it north" (821). The Westcott’s view of society and of themselves is being changed from a beautiful, solid picture of appearances into many jagged, separate pieces that do not seem to fit together.

Richard Rupp asserts that the movement "From external to internal sorrow is only a short, inevitable step" (109). This step of internalizing the sorrow occurs in several different situations. The first one occurs when the...

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