“The Country Husband” exemplifies John Cheever’s interpretation of life, values, and futile rebellion among neighbors and families. In Shady Hill, a suburb within commuting distance of New York, wives are concerned with dinners, social gatherings, and social status; daughters are absorbed in romance magazines; children bicker on household battlefields; and husbands delude themselves with fantasies of romance as they struggle merely to be acknowledged.
Clayton Thomas, who is engaged to Anne Murchison, a baby-sitter, offers a summary of Shady Hill: “What seems to me really wrong with Shady Hill is that it doesn’t have any future. So much energy is spent in perpetuating the place—in keeping out undesirables, and so forth—that the only idea of the future anyone has is just more and more commuting trains and more parties.”
Francis Weed, the story’s central character, seems to agree, for he thinks that there is “no turpitude.” Life seems “arranged with more propriety even than in the Kingdom of Heaven.” The story begins as Francis survives a plane’s emergency landing, but upon his return to Shady Hill, he can find no one to listen to his harrowing experience. The superficiality of life in Shady Hill becomes especially clear when Francis sees a maid at a party and realizes that he saw her in France during World War II: She was publicly humiliated for being a collaborator with the Germans. Shady Hill residents consider...
(The entire section is 444 words.)