The Symbolic Meaning of the Radio in The Enormous Radio
Many authors use the personification of inanimate objects to symbolize the feelings and expressions of their characters. One example of this is in John Cheever’s short story, "The Enormous Radio." Although critics argue that the characteristics of the radio are the opposite of those of Jim and Irene Westcott, the radio actually reflects the couple’s life.
Even though in the beginning of the story the Westcotts’ old radio is outdated and constantly malfunctioning, it has the same innocence and simplicity as the couple. The radio, being "an old instrument" (817), and the couple, resembling "statistical reports in college alumni bulletins" (817), are both average and uncomplicated. Neither Jim nor Irene "understood the mechanics of the radio" (817), just as the radio, a machine, did not understand the human music and language it transmitted. Eventually the couple’s life begins to fall apart. This happens as the old radio get worse and finally "the music [from the radio] faded away all together" (817).
When the old radio is replaced with a new model, problems still arise with the Westcott family and the new radio. The Westcotts and the new radio are physically similar to each other. Jim and Irene appear to all who know them as the "perfect" couple with the American-dream lifestyle, but "beneath the smooth exterior of their lives lurk serious problems" (O’Hara 35). This is similar to the radio which appeared normal on the outside, but on the inside contained "violent forces" (818). Another problem the Westcotts and the radio share is increased chaos. The more the couple listens to the radio the more the instrument develops a "mistaken sensitivity to discord" (818). This coincides with the couple’s increased fighting and with their memories of their tarnished past. The most noticeable example of the similarities is not between the couple and the radio, but between Irene and the radio. Irene felt like the "new radio...