The Five-Forty-Eight Style and Technique

John Cheever

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Narrated throughout in the “affectless” third person, “The Five-Forty-Eight” is notable for the reader’s implied identification with “Miss Dent,” no doubt certifiably insane, and not with the supposed viewpoint character, similarly identified only by his family name: Apart from Blake’s son Charlie, the immediate cause of his quarrel with Mr. Watkins, only Mrs. Compton is identified by her given name, Louise, and then only in passing. Mr. Blake, it seems, is most pleased when so addressed, and when keeping the rest of the world at a similar distance of conventional formality. Louise Compton, apparently, has been mentioned to Blake so often by his unhappy wife that he cannot help but recall her first name. From the unexpected slant of the narration, it soon becomes apparent that Blake, and not the unfortunate Miss Dent (who may, or may not, have made a “dent” on Blake’s consciousness), is truly the more estranged and alienated of the two.