The Enormous Radio

A Study of Addiction and Its Effects in John Cheever's "The Enormous Radio"

"The Enormous Radio", by John Cheever, can be viewed as a study of addiction and its detrimental effects on the individual and their surroundings. The story introduces the Westcott family and the radio they listen to daily. The radio stops functioning one evening, and knowing how much his wife Irene enjoys listening to the radio, Jim purchases a very big, expensive replacement. At first Irene is rather put off by the "physical ugliness of the large gumwood cabinet." Its "dials flooded with a malevolent green light," and held "violent forces" inside. Irene’s initial reaction to the radio parallels many alcoholics’ initial reactions to alcohol, namely its bitter taste and the “violent forces” that overcome a person not used to its effects, but the metaphor can extend to addictions of other kinds as well. Cheever’s brilliant story details every step of a classic addiction: torment, reaching bottom, self-realization, recovery.

Alcoholics are not born addicts; rather, they develop the habit after enjoying the feelings felt by alcohol consumption and seeking them again and again until becoming consumed and addicted to its effects. For alcoholics, alcohol consumption usually began as a social...

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