Is the genre of Cheever's story "The Enormous Radio" magical realism with an ironic tone?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The distinguishing features of magical realism identified with Latin American literature are the incorporation of dreams, surreal aspects, mythological aspects, and magical aspects with realistic development of human characters. Masterplots II identifies "The Enormous Radio" as Fantasy that combines realism, fantasy and a touch of the supernatural.

Some elements set Cheever's combination of realism and fantasy apart from the combination of realism, fantasy and magicalism of magical realism. One is that magical realism (called a "literary mode" rather than a genre) began in Latin America in the 1940s as a reflex to post-colonialism in an attempt to blend Native American Indian traditions of magic, supernatural, mythology and subjectivity with Western rationality and objectivity. Another element that sets Cheever's work apart from magical realism is thematic. magical realism often has themes pertaining to "carnival," rejuvenation, cyclical time (instead of linear), and challenges to polar opposites (life/death etc.).

Therefore, while Cheever's work combining realism and fantasy is Fantasy and not magical realism, Cheever does strike an ironic tone right from the very beginning with the Westcotts' "respectability" and theater outings "10.3 times per year." Cheever also sets up an ironic dark mood of suspense and danger with the secret they keep and the foreshadowing description of the old radio.

[For more information, access the links to Magical Realism at The International University of Kuala Lumpur; "The Enormous Radio" Masterplots II; and Magical Realism, Emory University.]

Read the study guide:
The Enormous Radio

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question