What different types of magical realism are used in Cheever's "The Enormous Radio" and what makes it so abstract?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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John Cheever's story "The Enormous Radio" has elements of fantasy combined with reality but it differs from the literary mode of "magical realism" by theme, setting and origin. "Magical realism" is a mode of literature of Latin America and offsets Western rationality, reason and objectivity with Native American Indian magicalism, mythology and fantasy. While Cheever's Fantasy and "magical realism" have things in common, they also have distinguishing differences.

One of the fantasy elements that Cheever uses is the device of having a radio that has a life-invading antenna. This is the primary literary device of the story. Through it, Irene and Jim, but particularly Irene, learn about the dark side of marital life on their statistically correct twelfth floor. Fantasy can be considered abstract in that it presents elements that are "apart form concrete realities" (Random House Dictionary at Dictionary.com). Cheever's work is particularly abstract in this sense because he combines realistic characters and life events with fantastic occurrences, making fantasy another step removed from concrete realities: having the semblance of reality, the premise is wholly unreal (or at least in the 1940s it was...).

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