By Jenn McKee, Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom
Provides plot summaries, lists of characters, and demanding perspectives of the author's most famed brief tales.
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Extra info for John Cheever (Bloom's Major Short Story Writers)
134), in its flat matter-of-factness leaves us believing that no rude awakening into an enlarged humanity has taken place for Blake. The only effect that thinking he is going to die has on him is to make him notice more vividly the homes, the lights, the street signs of Shady Hill, perhaps as symbols of the security which is now in doubt for him; his reflections are marked by no thoughts of family and no regret or guilt about his treatment of the woman. This story is an odd addition to the volume; it adds no real insight into Shady Hill as a community, and it provides the only unrelievedly despicable character from Shady Hill in the book.
It is indicative that the two people who refuse to talk to him on the train are, successively, his wife’s confidante and the father of his son’s best friend. When he hires a secretary by the name of Miss Dent, he seduces her because she is so in awe of him, and he fires her the next day. The only emotion, however, that he can feel when Miss Dent confronts him with a pistol, is fear, for Blake is incapable of questioning himself. 57 CRITICAL VIEWS ON “The Five-Forty-Eight” LYNNE WALDELAND ON THE STORY’S INNAPPROPRIATENESS COMPARED TO THE SHADY HILL STORIES [Lynne Waldeland is English Professor Emerita and former Provost of Northern Illinois University, and has written about John Cheever and Wright Morris.
The only significant difference between the Westcotts and other young couples in their set is their interest in serious music. When their old radio suddenly dies in the middle of a Schubert quartet, Jim decides to buy a replacement. This could serve as the stuff of comedy pure and simple, and in fact Cheever would work on scripts for the Life with Father television series only a few years later. A less experienced writer might have succumbed to the comic potential of his narrative premise, but Cheever had other intentions.