Style and Technique

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The story is told from the vantage of a narrator who owns property adjoining the Pastern’s property; the narrator learns the ultimate fate of the Pasterns and Mrs. Flannagan from a letter that his mother sends him. This narrative device suggests that the story is a form of gossip, but it also underscores the story’s authority, for the narrator himself is a member of the community that the story anatomizes.

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Beyond this, Cheever uses the image of the bomb shelter to focus the social meaning of the story. In itself, the shelter stands for survival selfishly conceived. For Charlie Pastern, the bishop, and Mrs. Flannagan, it represents their personal survival at the expense of the survival of others and of those values that make a living community meaningful. As such, it represents failure: Charlie cannot pay for it and loses it to the new owners of his house, and Mrs. Flannagan cannot use her key to it in the end.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 126

Bloom, Harold, ed. John Cheever. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.

Bosha, Francis J., ed. The Critical Response to John Cheever. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Byrne, Michael D. Dragons and Martinis: The Skewed Realism of John Cheever. Edited by Dale Salwak and Paul David Seldis. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1993.

Cheever, Susan. Home Before Dark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.

Coale, Samuel. John Cheever. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1977.

Collins, Robert G., ed. Critical Essays on John Cheever. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982.

Donaldson, Scott. John Cheever: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1988.

Donaldson, Scott, ed. Conversations with John Cheever. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1987.

Meanor, Patrick. John Cheever Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1995.

O’Hara, James E. John Cheever: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

Waldeland, Lynne. John Cheever. Boston: Twayne, 1979.

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