Home Before Dark Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Home Before Dark Analysis

Susan Cheever

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Home Before Dark Analysis

In Cheever’s attempt to open up her father’s life and art to the reader, she also presents her family’s history. The author divides John Cheever’s life into roughly two parts. The first forty-five years or so were marked by his search for professional acceptance, financial security, a stable family life, and a home; the second half was dedicated to finding an escape from the upper-middle-class life that he had constructed and from the “pressure to continually surpass himself as a writer.” During these two halves of his life, the Cheever children experienced their father’s insecurity, depression, and inability to express his feelings.

The connection between John Cheever’s life and his art are revealed in Cheever’s evaluations of her father’s stories. While he was trying to establish himself as a respectable gentleman, his short stories featured white, financially comfortable Protestants and contemporary suburban life. His first novel, The Wapshot Chronicle (1957), contained many autobiographical elements, including two brothers, an overbearing wife and mother, and a noble but humiliated father. A year after his hospitalization for alcoholism, John Cheever produced his most successful novel, Falconer (1977), which includes a homosexual love story and a protagonist who is an imprisoned heroin addict.

Cheever also reveals her father’s many pretensions. The image that John Cheever presented to the world included genteel breeding, upper-class diction, a lovely home complete with hunting dogs, and a happy family. Cheever explains that her father was a high school dropout with an affected speech pattern, a stressful family life, and money worries.

Alternately generous and parsimonious, John Cheever treated his family to...

(The entire section is 732 words.)