If Blake didn't learn his lesson, the reader, especially the male reader, certainly learns a lesson from this harrowing story. The lesson is that you shouldn't use other people. I am reminded of two motion pictures that have a theme similar to the one dramatized in "The Five-Forty-Eight." One of them is Fatal Attraction (1987) and the other is Play Misty for Me (1971). Both may have been inspired by John Cheever's story. In both films the man has a brief fling with a woman who turns out to be a psychotic troublemaker, or "crazy-maker," to use a term that has probably gone out of vogue. Many men--and women, too--will remember times in their lives when they got involved with someone out of loneliness or boredom, or possibly curiosity, and then found themselves in the same situation as Brer Rabbit with the Tar Baby. Most of our problems in life are caused by other people. We should be extremely cautious about entering into intimate relations, or even friendships. As far as John Cheever's character Blake is concerned, he is too old to change radically. He has learned a lesson, but in my opinion the lesson is only to be more careful. We all learn lessons like that in our lives--or at least we should! Miss Dent did not intend to kill Blake. She only wanted to frighten him and teach him a lesson. She is probably a good judge of whether or not the lesson had the desired effect. She tells him:
"I don't really want to harm you. I want to help you, but when I see your face it sometimes seems to me that I can't help you. Sometimes it seems to me that if I were good and loving and sane--oh, much better than I am--sometimes it seems to me that if I were all these things and young and beautiful, too, and if I called to show you the right way, you wouldn't heed me."