Feb 22, 2009

The Enormous Radio (by John Cheever)


A story about Jim & Irene Westcott, an average couple in all but 1 respect, and that is in their fondness for music, which is to say, their fondness for harmony. When their radio breaks down beyond repair, Jim buys another as a gift for his wife. The machine’s complexity, ugly gumwood cabinet and malevolent green light trouble Trine. More disturbing is the radio’s tendency to pick up interference. Irene hears ringing telephones and the conversations and quarrels of her neighbours instead of music. Soon, Irene begins to take pleasure in caves dropping on her neighbours, but this perverse fascination soon gives way to an apprehensiveness and even defensiveness on part of Irene, who too insistently maintain that she and Jim are innocent of the hypocrisy, fearfulness and financial troubles that afflict their neighbours. Ironically, her knowledge of their lives and misfortunes eventually causes friction in her own marriage. Jim turns out worries about growing old and wonders why he has not been as successful as he hoped to be. In a sudden out burst, he cracks Irene’s Christly shell, exposing the lies thefts and even the abortion she has sought to conceal, indeed seem to have forgotten.


# The pretentious lifestyle of middle – class people
The comforts of their middle-class life cannot protect the individual against either the evil in the world or the evil in oneself. Tempted by the satanic radio, Irene falls into knowledge, out of love and perhaps beyond the possibility of redemption as well.

# The consequences in the lure of addiction
Another theme that is expressed in this story is the lure of addiction. It is about how the most ordinary looking people, can be hiding a secret life. Things are not always what they appear; the author tries to tell us the most innocent, upstanding, proper individuals can be serial killers, drug users or domestic abuser or Rogers.

Point of View

#3rd person omniscient
The narrator describes the actions and thoughts of characters in the story Jim & Irene as well as Emma the maid.


Place: Sutton Place, North America
Social condition: Middle class society


The radio = devil
The radio is a corruptor of morals, luring 1 into an addiction to listening to the intimate secrets of others

Gossipy: Irene becomes addicted to the secrets of others

Frustration and Irritation: Jim is frustrated and irritated on his wife who seems to be concerned about others and not worried about their own family

Curiosity: The radio seen to have special power and readers are curious about the radio’s ability


Protagonist: Irene Westcott – dynamic character
# Pretentious & Vain
-         Housewife who wants to be seen as perfect to the eyes of others and its very particular about things that she owns.
-         She becomes paranoid regarding the new radio

-         She starts to look forward to listen to her neighbour’s secrets although she worry that its might be a two way radio and her neighbours might be able to hear she and her husband as well.
-         She is cunning. She stole her mother’s jewellery & did not help her sister.

Antagonist: Jim Westcott – dynamic character
#loving & responsible
-         A loving husband who cares the needs of his family
-         He is worried about their future
-         Towards the end of the story, he is very frustrated with his wife thus he cracks open her deep secrets


-Introduction to Jim & Irene who enjoy the music very much and spend a good amount of time in listening to music from their radio. One day the sound from the radio fades away and Jim promises Irene to get a new one.

Rising Action
-Irene becomes addicted to the sounds that come out from the new radio and begins to take pleasure in eavesdropping on her neighbours.

-Jim tells Irene that she should stop listening to the conversations when she knows that they destroy her.

Falling Action
-He fixes the radio, and Irene turns on the radio after fixed, yet relieved to hear normal sounds from the radio.