How does the style that "The Enormous Radio" is written in add to or detract from the message or theme?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a complement to the answer above: John Cheever's theme in "The Enormous Radio" discusses the difficulties of mid-twentieth century marriages in the rush of prosperity, ambition and social mobility. He delves into the darker side behind the facade of shiny new contraptions, statistics and beautiful music on the radio. To do so, Cheever adopts a style of writing in "The Enormous Radio" that builds an ironic tone and suspenseful mood so that readers participate in that darker side that lurks beneath the facade of statistical correctness.

One example is that in the first paragraph Cheever sets his ironic tone with remarks about "respectability," "statistical reports," and "10.3 times a year." By themselves, these comments may not seem much, but when the lines of the first paragraph are all read together, a tone emerges wherewith he makes the Westcotts look more than a little self-complacent and foolish. He then establishes a mood of mystery and danger because by the end of the first paragraph, the Westcotts have a secret: "they seldom mentioned this to anyone." By use of the literary technique of foreshadowing in the second paragraph, Cheever adds suspense and a darkening irony to the mood and tone: "Their radio was an old instrument, sensitive, unpredictable, and beyond repair."

Other stylistic elements to look for in authorial writing style are narratorial point of view, diction and vocabulary, grammar, time chronology (whether straight forward or interspersed with flashbacks or flash forwards), and other literary techniques (metaphor, personification, etc.). Authorial writing style does add to or detract from the theme by creating the mood, tone, language, imagery, etc. that affects it.

jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Cheever's short story, "The Enormous Radio," is written in a plain, straightforward style. 

The story contains sections of description and action that are written in fairly long, well-organized paragraphs.  Some of them almost have topic sentences and concluding sentences, just as students are taught to write in their non-fiction compositions.  For example, take a look at the story's second paragraph.  It begins with a topic sentence:  "Their radio was an old instrument, sensitive, unpredictable, and beyond repair."   The next four sentences provide details about the inefficiency of the radio.  The paragraph ends with Jim promising to buy Irene a new radio. 

When the characters speak, they do so in standard, educated, American English.  Even near the end of the story, when Irene cries in anguish and when Jim yells at her, they speak in full, coherent sentences.  

In my opinion, the story's style adds to its theme.  The story is about two very normal, decent people who accidentally discover aspects of life that are seedy, indecent, and troubling.  Despite their discovery, their lives seem to go on more or less as usual.  This is symbolized by the story ending with the radio announcing the temperature and humidity.

All of this is enhanced by the story's style of normal, decent, standard English.   



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The Enormous Radio

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