How does Cheever make a broad social critique through focus on a single middle-class family?

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When Irene begins listening to the tumult in her neighbor's lives, she is at first, intrigued. She lives a fairly vapid, upper-middle-class life with domestic help and spends her days shopping, decorating, and lunching with women like herself. When she learns of the struggles of her neighbors she initially feels smug and superior, but eventually gives way as her own insecurities are revealed. It is only when her husband Jim confronts her about her attempt to hide her excessive spending and her past misdeeds that Irene is forced to examine her own faults.

Cheever's social critique seems to have to do with the facade of upper middle class respectability. Although the people in Jim and Irene Westcott's building dress well and have many other outward trappings of decency, what goes on in their apartments as revealed through the radio suggests otherwise. Like the others in their milieu, the Westcotts present themselves to the world as above reproach, but they, too have worries and money problems. Irene has episodes in her past that call into question her morality. Cheever's story observes that the chaos of the human condition is concealed by the thinnest veneer of propriety.

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