Essay on The Difficult Lesson of The Enormous Radio

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The Difficult Lesson of The Enormous Radio

"The Enormous Radio" by John Cheever begins with Jim and Irene Westcott who are an average American couple with an average American family. Cheever describes them as middle-aged, having two young children, a pleasant home, and a sufficient income. On the surface they seem to have a perfect life, but underneath this is not the case. In the course of the story, Irene’s imperfections are revealed by a hideous radio. The radio was bought to give the Westcott’s listening pleasure, but then they discover it can hear all the neighborsconversations. Irene becomes so obsessed with eavesdropping on her neighbors’ conversations, that it blinds her from her own problems.

It seems as though
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In her obsession with the radio she fails to realize how her life was pertinent to the lives of her neighbors. Smith states that Irene becomes "so involved in her neighbors’ predicaments, she fails to recognize her own" (59). She had deceived herself and everyone else into thinking that life was different from those around her. Not only does she have blindfolds on, but she seeks constant reassurance from Jim that their lives are not like those of her neighbors.

After listening to all her neighbors’ problems one day, she cries for Jim’s reassurance that they are happy and content. She tells Jim that, "Mrs. Hutchinson’s mother is dying of cancer," and "Mr. Hendricks is going to lose his job in April" (822). She wants Jim to reassure her that their life is not like their neighbors, so she asks Jim, "And we’re not hypercritical or worried about money or dishonest, are we?" (823). He lies and says that they are not, but indeed they are.

Jim, in fact, "worried about money a great deal" (823). Jim says, "I don’t like to see all of my energies, all of my youth, wasted on fur coats and radios and slipcovers" (824). He tells Irene that they need to cut back on their expenses. He tells her that she needs to learn how to manage her money better, but Irene doesn’t seem to care about her husband’s concerns. She even lies to him about paying for her clothing bills, which is ironic since she believes that she and Jim are
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