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Written by Timothy Sexton
The Enormous Radio
Although a very real and tangible object, the enormous radio also acts as metaphor. The radio is a metaphor for all means of transmission that provide information to people about other people that serves to put a hurt on our positive and typically benevolent attitude toward the human race. Imagine what life was like before the invention of any form of mass communication. Without a constant stream of news about what was going on outside your own little community, your view of basic human decency would be quite different from what it probably is today. The more you find out about people, the less easy it is make the general assumption that people are, for the most part, good, honest and decent. The enormous radio is a metaphorical representative of the means of transmission which has wreaked such considerable havoc on that now outdated consensus.
"the new radio stood among her intimate possessions like an aggressive intruder."
Irene Westcott’s initial reaction toward the new radio that has replaced the old on which broke is that it does not fit in. Massive and ugly, it is out of place. The simile that compares it to burglar breaking into her house is a fine piece of foreshadowing that indicates the radio will become an intrusion into their lives and in a physically palpable way.
"A crackling sound like the noise of a burning powder fuse began to accompany the singing of the strings. "
This excerpt involves a foreshadowing of the detonation of everything she thought she knew about the people around her. One of Irene’s first contacts with the radio before it begins transmitting private conversations is a distinctive sort of interference of the clarity of the signal. The comparison that Irene connects with this distinctive form of static to the sound made by the fire burning along a fuse toward the detonation of dynamite. The radio is a bomb waiting to go off; she just doesn’t know it yet.
"It's like looking in windows."
Just in case it was not obvious that the story is intended to draw an analogy between listening to private conversations on the enormous radio and being a voyeur, Jim makes it clear. What is less clear in Jim’s accusations in the implicit complicity of the reader: reading about these people listening in on the conversations of others is another form of looking into windows.
'You packed your bag and went off to have that child murdered as if you were going to Nassau. '
This simile serves to create a comparison that reveals the full devastating level of deception that husband has been showing to wife. By no means a perfect marriage to begin, the seething anger which has been building toward this moment when Jim Westcott unleashes the full force of suppressed rage toward his wife offers full disclosure of just how much this couple is exactly on the same level—emotionally speaking—as those broken relationships which they radio has made them privy to. Packing to head for an abortion with all the emotional depth of packing for a vacation to the beach is horrific and the fact that Jim frames the memory in this way makes this simile perhaps the most emotionally raw analogy in the entire story.
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I think that the radio being the centerpiece of entertainment gives us the idea that this is largely a pre-television era. I don't think the setting was memorable to me other than setting up the exposition of the story.
I find the story rather sad and prophetic. In this day and age of social media, people seem quite willing to build their lives as an illusion. The young couple can represent most anyone on Facebook who finds validation in perpetuating the image of...
There is, among the middle class and socially "comfortable", a sense of desperation and irony. Cheevers builds the darker side of the new American dream. Although the Westcotts appear to be contented with their middle afluence there is an...