Cheever’s characters, while not flat, are sketchily drawn—caricatures which capture essential details and may offer a hint of satire. In his comments, however, the narrator, as intimate observer, reveals (and sometimes comments on) the characters’ thoughts, giving the characters greater depth and complexity than they appear to have at first.
Lemuel Sears is an apparently successful, well-traveled businessman, an executive for a computer-container manufacturer. “Old . . . but not yet infirm,” he fears that age may bring the “end of love.” Love for him satisfies more than a physical desire; love fills a spiritual void as well. For Sears, “a profound and gratifying erotic consummation is a glimpse at another’s immortal soul as one’s own immortal soul is shown.” While Sears does not live in the past, details of the present constantly call up memories of earlier times and places that reveal his eye and ear for detail, his sense of place, and his love of the sensual. These memories and his patrician manners associate him with values that have endured.
Renee Herndon, who accommodates Sears’s lustiness and brings physical love into his life again for a brief time is drawn in less detail. To Sears, she is “a remarkably good-looking woman” of thirty-five or forty. Involved with numerous unidentified self-improvement groups, she is a mysterious, unpredictable character who repeatedly tells Sears that he does not “understand...
(The entire section is 475 words.)